Quess East Bengal's hope of winning their maiden I-League title took a serious dent as they shared the spoils in a highly entertaining 1-1 draw with Aizawl FC at the VYBK Stadium in Kolkata.
Man of the Match Zikahi Dodoz drew first blood for Aizawl in the 23rd minute, while Enrioque Esqueda restored parity for Bengal in the 65th minute through a delicious cross from substitute Samad Mallick on Monday.
Aizawl's Kareem Nurain was given the marching orders for dissent after receiving a yellow card that was given to him for his foul on Jobby Justin in the 70th minute.
Bengal are now placed second, sharing the position with debutants Real Kashmir FC in the 12th I-League points table with 33 points, seven short of league toppers Chennai City FC.
As expected, Bengal nursing their ambition for a title win started on an attacking note. Jobby Justin along with Esqueda, and Jamie Santos made some threatening moves.
Aizawl kept trying to create opportunities but were unable to breach into Bengal's defensive deadlock. Aizawl's efforts soon yielded results when Dodoz received a long ball from Alfred Jaryan, who thereafter made no mistake in finding the back of the net after lobbing the ball beautifully over an onrushing Rakshit Dagar to draw first blood for the visitors in the 23rd minute.
The game suddenly changed gears as it were Aizawal, who were in control mostly, pressing high and creating opportunities in quick succession.
Bengal, who were looking for an equaliser, came really close to one when Danmawia took a beautiful shot at the goal from outside the box, which would have been an outstanding goal if not for the timely intervention from Aizawl's goalkeeper who tipped the ball out.
The game mostly revolved around both the teams creating chances but none of them could really find an opportunity to score. The first half ended with Bengal trailing 0-1 to Aizawl.
The second half began with Bengal pressing high for an equaliser. In the middle, Aizawl did make a few attempts to double their lead through Dodoz but Borja Gomez in combination with Chullova and Salam Ranjan ensured that the hosts do not add to their woes.
Early into the first half Samad Mallick was brought in place for Manoj Mohammad and the substitution soon yielded results when Samad made an inch-perfect curling cross beating Aizawl defenders and the goalkeeper to Esqueda, who made no mistake in heading the ball to the back of the net bringing the important equaliser for Bengal in the 65th minute.
The game opened up to fierce attacks from both ends, with the hosts having the better of the chances. The Aizawl defence and their young goalkeeper Lalawmpuia played beyond expectations to restrict the charging Bengal's forward line from converting any opportunities that came their way.
Things turned bad for Aizawl when Kareem Nurain was yellow carded for a foul on Jobby Justin and eventually given the marching orders for his dissent by the referee in the 70th minute.
Bengal tried to make the most of the opportunity that was presented to them, but a solid defence line of Aizawl ensured that scoreline did not change any further. The game came to an end with both the sides sharing the spoils in a 1-1 tie.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)