I-League: East Bengal moves to second with Aizawl draw

Enrique Esqueda's 65th minute strike helped East Bengal secure a point in its I-League clash against former champion Aizawl FC.

East Bengal.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

A 10-man Aizawl FC played an inspired game to hold home favourite East Bengal to a 1-1 draw, in a Hero I-League match here at the Salt Lake Stadium on Monday. The dropped points made East Bengal's quest for an elusive I-League title more difficult. The drawn outcome will cheer up the current leader Chennai City FC, which now has a seven-point lead on top of the standings.

East Bengal jumped to the second spot tallying 33 points from 17 matches while Chennai City has 40 from 18.

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Failing to get its game right, East Bengal conceded early arrears when Alfred Jaryan set the perfect cross in the 23rd minute to help Leonce Dodoz fox the host's defence. The Ivorian went on to chip the ball over the East Bengal goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar into the net, who was charging out to clear.

The visitor could well have doubled the lead in the last minute of the opening half but for the referee, who disallowed Ansumana Kromah’s goal. The Liberian forward tried a smart move screening Dagar, who intercepted a floater coming from the Aizawl midfield. As Dagar released the ball, Kroma intercepted it and slotted it home only to see referee Umesh Bora hauling him up for an infringement and booking for the offense, which remained quite mysterious to the visitor.

East Bengal upped the initiative after the break but failed to find the target despite creating a greater number of scoring opportunities. East Bengal coach Alejandro Menéndez introduced his fifth foreigner in Spaniard Antonio Dovale in the 57th minute looking to spruce up the attack.

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This gave the home attack better direction as a combination between Dovale and Samad Ali Mallick on the right opened the opportunity for East Bengal in the 66th minute. Dovale set up the ball for an overlapping Samad, who set a nice cross in the box for Enrique Esqueda to jump up and finish it.

Aizawl was reduced to 10 men in the 70th minute when it lost defender Kareem Omolaja Nurain to a red card awarded for dissent after the referee had booked him for an infringement. East Bengal tried to make the most of the advantage but failed to find the winner.

The result: East Bengal FC 1 (Enrique Esqueda 66) drew with Aizawl FC 1 (Leonce Dodoz 23)

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