Willis Plaza’s presence of mind and Larindika Ralte’s accuracy resulted in a highly entertaining 1-1 draw between Quess East Bengal and Churchill Brothers FC Goa at the YVBK stadium, Salt Lake in Kolkata on Sunday.
East Bengal, with the result, climbed to the second spot on the table, tied on 32 points (from 16 games) with Real Kashmir. The Red and Golds (East Bengal) are ahead due to a better goal difference. Meanwhile, Chennai City FC, who play Shillong Lajong on Monday, lead the pack with 34 points, having played the same number of matches.
Plaza drew first blood for Churchill Brothers in the 68th minute, taking advantage of a miscommunication between Rakshit Dagar and Borja of East Bengal. Ralte restored parity for the Red and Golds with a stellar free-kick that found the back of the net, thanks to a great header from Kassim Aidara in the 78th minute.
While East Bengal played with the same squad that drubbed Shillong Lajong FC 5-0, Churchill started with the introduction of Ivorian forward Christian Remi in place of Dawda Ceesay, who was ruled out of the season due to injury.
The game started with hosts East Bengal pressing hard from the first minute, but Churchill Brothers were solid in their defence.
East Bengal tried making a few attempts through long crosses. Joby Justin and Laldanmawia made the first of the many attempts when Churchill Brothers’ Bhaskaran bravely saved the latter’s strike.
The match remained goalless in the first 45 minutes.
The visitors, through the attacking combination of Khalid Aucho, Christian Remi, Chesterpoul Lyngdoh, and Anthony Wolfe came close to scoring a few times but the East Bengal defence thwarted them.
Churchill Brothers had their first attempt on the goal in the 50th minute, when a corner kick from Nicholas was headed by Novakovic – it was saved by Dagar.
Churchill’s efforts were soon rewarded when a miscommunication between Borja Perez and Dagar saw Plaza capitalise on the opportunity to draw first blood in the 68th minute.
A silly tackle in the 77th minute by Churchill’s Rowlinson led to a free-kick being awarded to Quess East Bengal from just outside the box. Ralte made no mistake as he sent in a perfect cross, which took a touch off Aidaraa’s head before entering the net, giving the hosts the much-needed equaliser in the 78th minute.