Jaime Colado struck at the stoppage time to help East Bengal hold Churchill Brothers 1-1 in their I-League clash at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Saturday.
The Goan side took a 10th-minute lead when Willis Plaza beat four defenders to score. East Bengal failed to make use of their opportunities till late in the match before Colado struck off a rebound after his penalty was thwarted by James Khitan in 90+5th minute.
With the spoils being shared, Churchill remain at third place with 20 points while East Bengal have a point less, but having played a match more.
Playing their first match this I-League season at the Saltlake Stadium, East Bengal looked to secure a hat-trick of wins but their defence let them down.
Dawda Ceesay’s lobbed delivery found Plaza and in an attempt to close down the Trinidadian, defenders Mehtab Singh and Asheer Akhtar got into each other’s way. Plaza took his time with the shot but the connection was sweet and left Mirshad in goal with no chance.
The home side moved forward with more intent after the setback. Brandon and Jimenez Espada came close on two occasions, with either attempt sailing wide albeit not by much.
Arguably the best chance of the half fell to Colado, after compatriot Juan Mera’s cutback had found him inside the Churchill box completely unmarked. His ensuing shot was on target but visiting keeper James Kithan did well to react.
In the 35th minute, Colado tried returning the favour to Mera, finding him just outside the edge of the box with a cheeky back-flick. Mera pulled the trigger but could find only the side netting.
Mapuia had a glorious opportunity to extend the lead for the Red Machines going into half-time. He combined well with Plaza, played a slick give-and-go before testing Mirshad in goal, who palmed it straight back to Mapuia’s feet. But, he squandered the second invitation.
East Bengal continued to ride on their offensive ascendency in the second session as Mera and Colado kept the Churchill backline on their toes.
In the 54th minute, the home team broke forward on the counter. Mera played Colado down the right, who took a couple of touches forward before taking on the shot. However, goalie Kithan denied the Spaniard with an excellent save.
In pursuit of the equaliser, Ansumana Kromah was introduced near the hour mark by coach Mario Rivera.
In the 70th minute, Kromah converted Victor Perez’s delightful cross and set off to celebrate, only to realise seconds later that he had been flagged offside.
Two minutes later, East Bengal struck the woodwork twice in a space of five seconds.
A Juan Mera corner was met by Mehtab Singh but his header ricocheted off the crossbar before Churchill’s Ponif Vaz, in an attempt to head clear, struck the woodwork again but to his relief, survived scoring an own goal.
Kromah had a golden opportunity to play super-sub in the 86th minute but he missed an absolute sitter after Mera had played him through and the forward had only the keeper to beat.
Churchill seemed to have grabbed the three points but in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time, Suresh Meitei’s reckless challenge on Kromah earned the home side a penalty.
Colado stepped up for the responsibility from 12 yards. He was initially denied by James Kithan, who had guessed right, but the rebound fell straight back to the Spaniard, who made no mistake with the second bite of the cherry.
Late comeback earns Aizawl crucial point in Srinagar
Relegation-threatened Aizawl FC pulled off a spectacular come-from-behind 2-2 draw against hosts Real Kashmir FC in the I-League here on Saturday.
The Snow Leopards were given the lead by Scotsman Mason Robertson (36th minute) in the first half and it was looking quite comfortable for the hosts after Englishman Kallum Higginbotham (54th) doubled it at the beginning of the second.
However, young Rochharzela (84th and 87th) had other ideas, coming up with a double-strike in the space of three minutes to stun the home supporters present in the stands.
Kashmir join the likes of Chennai City and Churchill Brothers on 19 points to enter the top five at least momentarily after 13 games, while Aizawl secure a crucial point to climb just above the relegation zone with 16 points from 14 matches.
Aizawl continued their trend of scoring late as Hero of the Match Rochharzela’s twin strikes were their seventh and eighth goals scored in the last 15 minutes this season.
Aizawl had as much as 68 percent possession in the first half and three corners as compared to Kashmir’s none, and were looking enterprising with their passing game. But, it was the home side that got the all-important goal.
It came from coach David’s son Mason, who can now easily be called Kashmir’s most lethal scorer with six goals to his name already this season.
The scoring opportunity came through an error from Aizawl’s Lalhmangaihkima, who started in place of Jonathan.
Kima received a loose ball outside his own box with an open field in front of him to initiate a counter but needlessly handled the ball. From the resultant set-piece, Robertson unleashed a right-footer around the wall and into the Aizawl net. Keeper Zothanmawia scrambled haplessly to get a hand to it but the shot had too much power.
Kashmir did manage to get their first corner as soon as the second half began but their second goal came a bit later. Mason had a role in this one as well as he played Ritwik Kumar Das in after another defensive lapse from Aizawl – this time by Ghanaian Joseph Adjei, who conceded possession with a loose clearance.
The talented Ritwik, who displayed some deft moves throughout the game, broke inside the Aizawl box in a flash with a couple more and squared the ball back to an unmarked Higginbotham. The English winger made no mistake with a calm and composed finish, slotting it home between the keeper and defender.
Even though Robin Singh made a hash of a 78th-minute penalty, which was won thanks to another dangerous Mason cross handled inadvertently inside the box by Adjei, it did look as if Kashmir would log all three points.
However, with barely minutes left for the final whistle, Aizawl got a penalty for themselves when Zoherliana was deemed to have been fouled inside the box by Loveday Okechukwu.
From the resulting opportunity, Rochharzela converted confidently. Just three minutes later, the youngster brought down a long ball by Rosanga beautifully inside the Kashmir box on the right and in one action, he got ahead of his marker to find just keeper Phurba Lachenpa standing between him and the target.
Zela placed a perfect right-footer over the keeper’s head and away from him to lodge the ball into the top left corner to complete a sensational comeback for his side.
In the third game on Saturday, Punjab FC were held to a 1-1 draw by Gokulam Kerala FC in Kozhikode. Dipanda Dicka gave the visitors the lead in the 34th minute before Nathaniel Garcia levelled matters in the 63rd minute.
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