A wasteful East Bengal was held to a goalless draw by visiting Sporting Clube de Goa in the penultimate round match of the I-League at the Vidyasagar Stadium in Barasat on Friday. Needing a win to stand a mathematical chance of securing its first I-League title, the three-time National Football League winner East Bengal could not convert the chances which came its way in good numbers mostly in the second half.
Both the team were reduced to 10 men after Sporting Clube defender Mehrajuddin Wadoo received his marching orders in the 59th minute. East Bengal’s Narayan Das encountered the same fate later in the 86th minute.
With the chances of winning the title having virtually evaporated for the host, which also saw its coach Biswajit Bhattacharya quitting over the issue, there was little motivation for both the sides. Bhattacharya’s replacement Englishman Trevor Morgan is yet to arrive giving his assistant and former player Sanjay Majhi the job to manage the team.
Sporting Goa, which was positioned fourth after East Bengal, too played for pride and the barren encounter in the end came as an apt reward for the absence of real initiative to go for a win.
East Bengal, which made seven changes in the squad that lost the last match against Bengaluru FC, could have secured the win had its attackers – Nigerian Ranti Martins, Korean Do Dong-Hyun and substitute Lalrindika Ralte – converted some good chances coming their way in the second half. Sporting Clube goalkeeper Arindam Banerjee made some good saves but it was more about the absence of the resolve to score on the part of the East Bengal strikers that killed the chance of a result in the end.
Sporting Clube’s key striker Odafa Okolie was also unimpressive on his return from injury and that further killed the prospect of a win for the visitor. Both the teams retained their respective positions in the league standings with East Bengal tallying 25 points from 15 matches to remain third while Sporting Clube netted 19 points from 15 outings to keep its fourth position.