I-League: Bukenya late strike helps East Bengal hold Aizawl

Ivan Bukenya came in as a late substitute, made the perfect debut for East Bengal as he cancelled the own goal scored by Gurwinder Singh, to help his team escape the ignominy of opening with a loss at home.

Bukenya scored the equaliser a minute from the end to help East Bengal hold Aizawl F.C. 1-1 in the opening match of the Hero I-League.   -  East Bengal Football Club

Ivan Bukenya scored the equaliser a minute from the end to help East Bengal hold Aizawl F.C. 1-1 in the opening match of the Hero I-League at the Vidyasagar Stadium in Barasat on Saturday.

The Ugandan defender, who came in as a late substitute, made the perfect debut for East Bengal as he cancelled the own goal scored by the man he replaced – Gurwinder Singh – to help his team escape the ignominy of opening with a loss at home.

Starting with just one foreigner in Haitian Wedson Anselme, East Bengal hit the doldrums in the opening half which saw more of midfield activity in absence of good offensive plans on either side.

The first attempt came in the 15th minute when Anselme’s effort went straight into the hands of the Aizawl F.C. goalkeeper Albino Gomes. Despite enjoying a greater share of ball possession, East Bengal failed to bring up the required cohesion in the attacking third.

After the Haitian forward had missed another chance around the half-hour mark, the first session ended in an anti-climax with Gurwinder Singh scoring an own goal. Aizawl forward Jayesh Rane found colleague Stephane Bayi inside the East Bengal but the latter ran against three opposition defenders.

Just as the Ivory Coast striker was searching for a corridor, Gurwinder ended up sending the ball inside his own goal in the haste to clear it.East Bengal had to work extremely hard to neutralise Gurwinder’s mistake as Aizawl tightened its defence employing more men in the back, after the break.

Aizawl could well have made it 2-0 but Alfred Jaryan’s header early in the second half came off the crosspiece. With the team’s attack making little headway, East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan was practically forced to employ the full quota of foreigners in the second half.

Trinidad and Tobago striker Willis Plaza, who arrived barely 48 hours before the match, replaced Jackichand Singh. Plaza almost found the target in the 80th minute but for a spectacular save by Gomes in th Aizawl goal. Finally, Bukenya found the equaliser in the 89th minute nodding home a corner from Abinash Ruidas to save the day for East Bengal.

The result: East Bengal 1 (Ivan Bukenya 89) drew with Aizawl FC 1 (Gurwinder Singh 45+1-og).