I-League: East Bengal title hopes jolted after draw

Trailing by a Steven Dias goal in the 15th minute, East Bengal produced a turnaround with strikes from Ranty Martins (25th) and Bernard Mendy (59th).But its defence was caught napping with Mumbai FC scoring against the run of play in the 77th minute, when Mehta’s free header gave goalkeeper Luis Barreto no chance.

Bernard Mendy and his teammates celebrate East Bengal's second goal against Mumbai FC.   -  I-League Media

A sloppy East Bengal squandered a fine lead through Ashutosh Mehta’s late goal and settled for a 2-2 draw against Mumbai FC to see its I-League title hopes get a jolt at the Vidyasagar Krirangan here today.

Trailing by a Steven Dias goal in the 15th minute, East Bengal produced a turnaround with strikes from Ranty Martins (25th) and Bernard Mendy (59th).

But its defence was caught napping with Mumbai FC scoring against the run of play in the 77th minute, when Mehta’s free header gave goalkeeper Luis Barreto no chance.

With defending champion and table leader Mohun Bagan (26) and third placed East Bengal (24) dropping points from their respective matches, it would now brighten the hopes of 2013-14 champion Bengaluru FC, which is second with 25 points and will face new-comer DSK Shivajians in Pune tomorrow.

Mumbai FC started brilliantly but luck deserted it in the 13th minute when Dias’ 20-yard free-kick hit the woodwork.

But it had its way minutes later when East Bengal conceded a free-kick with a foul from Barreto. Dias rolled back the years with a brilliant curler over the wall into the far left corner.

With East Bengal going down, Sanju Pradhan and Ranty combined well to find the equaliser when the former brilliantly set it up from the right before the Nigerian shot with a powerful right-footer.

Two minutes later, Mendy missed from the shooting range but made amends in the second half after he received the ball from Martins to slot it in comfortably to top corner.

Just when it looked East Bengal was all set to go past its arch-rivals Mohun Bagan at the top of the table, Mehta brought on the equaliser with its defence caught napping.

With former champion Bengaluru FC (away), Sporting Clube de Goa (home) and Shillong Lajong FC (away) waiting in the line, it will now need a miracle for the red and gold to emerge winner of the league.