I-League: East Bengal held to a draw by Shillong Lajong

East Bengal stumbled to its second consecutive draw in the I-League, for a 1-1 final score against a spirited Shillong Lajong FC in their I-League fixture in Siliguri.


East Bengal supporters had little to rejoice with their team's performance on Wednesday.   -  AFP

East Bengal played listlessly to drop crucial points as it was held to a 1-1 draw by Shillong Lajong in the I-League football fixture at the Kanchenjunga Stadium here on Wednesday. Fresh from their > goalless stalemate in the derby against Mohun Bagan, East Bengal was forced to play a catch-up game after Shillong’s Samuel Lalmuanpuia drew first blood in the 20th minute.

Willis Plaza headed past Vishal Kaith to equalise for East Bengal in the 45th minute but it could not get any goal in the second half, with the Shillong goalkeeper putting up a brave front. This was the I-League leader's second successive draw after a six-match winning streak and it now has 21 points from nine matches, which allows Mohun Bagan to catch-up.

It would be a morale booster for the Thangboi Shingto-coached side that has a point after a loss to DSK Shivajians at home. It now has 13 points from nine matches. This was its first away match after five consecutive home outings and it has lost to the Trevor Morgan-coached side only once in five outings. Shillong Lajong faced East Bengal four times last season - twice each in I-League and Federation Cup.

Debut for Chris Payne

Following an attacking start by East Bengal, the young Shillong outfit, with eight Under-22 recruits, stepped up the tempo. Aser Pierrick Dipanda ran in from the centre and played it wide to an unmarked Bipin Singh whose cross was headed in by a surging Lalmuanpuia. Australian signing Chris Payne made his debut in red and gold colours as he started alongside Plaza in Morgan’s diamond formation.

The home side straightway pressed for a lead, earning a second-minute corner, and there were a flurry of attacks with none of them resulting in a goal. Wedson’s volley went over the bar in the fourth minute while moments later Plaza went past four defenders, only to shoot away with a weak left-footer. Payne had a 58-minute appearance on his debut but the Aussie failed to make much of an impression and was replaced by Robin Singh.

Payne cut a sorry figure with his brazen tackle but still escaped without a booking from referee Santosh Kumar in his maiden outing on Indian soil. East Bengal had the best chance to go one up in the 56th mintue, in what could have been an own goal with Plaza’s strike taking Chinglensana Singh Konsham’s deflection before Kaith parried it away.

The result: East Bengal 1 (Willis Plaza 45') - Shillong Lajong FC 1 (Samuel Lalmuanpuia 20')

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