Quess East Bengal’s hope of winning their maiden I-League title took a serious dent on Monday as they shared the spoils in a highly entertaining 1-1 draw with Aizawl FC at the Salt Lake stadium, Kolkata.
Zikahi Dodoz drew first blood for Aizawl FC in the 23rd minute, while Enrique Esqueda restored parity for the Red and Golds in the 65th minute via a cross from substitute Samad Mallick.
Aizawl’s Kareem Nurain was given his marching orders for dissent after receiving a yellow card that was given to him for his foul on Jobby Justin in the 70th minute.
Quess East Bengal are now placed second, sharing the position with debutants Real Kashmir with 33 points, seven short of league toppers Chennai City.
As expected, Quess East Bengal nursing their ambition of a title win started on an attacking note. Jobby Justin along with Esqueda, and Jamie Santos made some threatening moves.
Aizawl FC kept trying to create opportunities but were unable to breach the Quess East Bengal defence. Aizawl’s efforts soon yielded results when Dodoz received a long ball from Alfred Jaryan, who thereafter made no mistake in finding the back of the net after lobbing the ball beautifully over an onrushing Rakshit Dagar to draw first blood for the visitors in the 23rd minute.
The game thereafter suddenly changed gears as it were Aizwal FC who were in control mostly, pressing high and creating opportunities in quick succession.
Quess East Bengal, who were looking for an equaliser came really close to one when Danmawia took a beautiful shot at the goal from outside the box, which would have been an outstanding goal if not for the timely intervention from Aizawl’s goalkeeper who tipped the ball out.
The game thereafter mostly revolved around both teams creating chances but none of them could really find an opportunity to score. The first half ended with Quess East Bengal trailing 0-1 to Aizawl.
The second half began with Quess East Bengal pressing high for an equaliser. In the middle, Aizawl did make a few attempts to double their lead through Dodoz but Borja Gomez in combination with Chullova and Salam Ranjan ensured that the hosts do not add to their woes.
Early into the first half Samad Mallick was brought in place for Manoj Mohammad. The substitution soon yielded results when Samad made an inch-perfect curling cross beating Aizawl defenders and the goalkeeper to Esqueda, who made no mistakes in heading the ball to the back of the net notching up the all-important equaliser for Quess East Bengal in the 65th minute.
The game thereafter opened up, with the hosts having the better of the chances. The Aizawl defence and their young goalkeeper Lalawmpuia played beyond expectations to restrict the charging Red and Golds forward line from converting any opportunities that came their way.
Things turned bad for Aizawl when Kareem Nurain was yellow carded for a foul on Jobby Justin. Quess East Bengal tried to make the most of the opportunity that was presented to them, but a solid Aizawl defence ensured that scoreline did not change any further.
Quess East Bengal, however, came really close to taking the lead on two occasions during added time, but luck wasn’t on their side. The first shot from Joby Justin hit the post, eventually to be cleared out safely and the second one from Didika which just missed the goal by a few inches. The game came to an end with both Quess East Bengal and Aizawl FC sharing the spoils in a 1-1 tie.