Debutant Real Kashmir FC's rock-solid resolve helped it earn a 1-1 draw against local heavyweight East Bengal and reach the top of the I-League table for the first time on Friday, at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan.
The visiting Kashmir side, which remains unbeaten in six matches, is tied on 18 points with Chennai City FC and Neroca FC but climbs to the top on the basis of better goal difference. East Bengal is fourth with 16 points.
In the first half, which was a tale of missed opportunities and fine saves, the home side coordinated well and made regular forays into the opposition box but their par finishing marred the sound build-ups.
East Bengal had a fine to take an early lead when Jobby Justin floated a beautiful cross from the right, but Jamie Colado's attempt sailed over the bar. The host continued to spill chances, the next one coming in the 32nd minute when when Brandon Vanlalremdika failed to reach a lovely pass from Laldanmawia Ralte.
Real Kashmir, which guarded its post solidly and looked for counter-attacks, also had its share of opportunities. Abednedo Kofi's attempt from right was touched away by a jumping Rakshit Dagar under the bar.
Kofi had a better chance in the 29th minute when his attempt off a loose ball inside the box found the keeper. Bazie Armand and Surchandra Singh came close to opening the account but could not break the deadlock in the opening half.
Real Kashmir took the lead within 10 seconds of resumption. Defender Lalram Chullova's own goal, while trying to clear a Surchandra cross from right, triggered celebrations in the touring camp.
East Bengal drew parity 10 minutes later as Justin slotted home following Danish Farooq's fine goalline save off a corner.
The home side pressed ahead in search of a winner but couldn't find its way past Real Kashmir's steely defence.
Latest on Sportstar
- WTC Final 2023: Cameron Green hopes to bring in Rohit Sharma’s calmness in title clash
- Sanjivani Jadhav finishes second in women’s 10,000m at Portland Track Festival
- McIlroy tied for lead at Memorial by making fewest mistakes
- Jabeur upset with fans reselling tickets due to women’s match in night session
- Nkunku stars as Leipzig retains German Cup with 2-0 win over Frankfurt