Quess East Bengal’s hope of winning their maiden Hero I-League title took a serious dent on Monday as they shared the spoils in a highly entertaining 1-1 draw with Aizawl FC.
The game was being played at the VYBK Stadium, SaltLake, Kolkata. Hero of the Match Zikahi Dodoz drew first blood for Aizawl FC in the 23rd minute, while Enrioque Esqueda restored parity for the Red and Golds in the 65th minute via a delicious cross from substitute Samad Mallick.
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.
Quess East Bengal are now placed second sharing the position with debutants Real Kashmir FC in the 12th Hero I-League points table with 33 points, seven short of league toppers Chennai City FC.
The hosts began in the absence of Costa Rican world cupper Johnny Acosta who was suspended for the game, having collected four yellow cards. Salam Ranjan Singh, who was playing his first match after his outing with the national team for the AFC Asian Cup 2019, replaced him.
While Spaniard Jamie Santos Colado found his place in the starting XI as Mendenez benched Toni Dovale for the game. For Aizawl FC, Kareem Omolaja found his place due to Govin Singh’s suspension. Remsanga Fanai and Dusatsanga also found their spots in the starting XI for Aizawl FC.
As expected, Quess East Bengal nursing their ambition for a title win in the 12th Hero Ileague started on an attacking note. Jobby Justin along with Esqueda, and Jamie Santos made some threatening moves.
Aizawl FC kept trying to create opportunities but were unable to breach into Quess East 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 onsrushing Rakshit Dagar to draw first blood for the visitors in the 23rd minute.
The game thereafter suddenly changed gears as it were Aizawal FC who were in control mostly, pressing high and creating opportunities in quick succession.
Quess East 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 FC’s goalkeeper who tipped the ball out.
The game thereafter mostly revolved around both the teams creating chances but none of them could really find an opportunity to score. The first half ended with Quess East Bengal trailing 0-1 to Aizawl FC.
The second half began with Quess East 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 mistakes in heading the ball to the back of the net bringing the all-important equaliser for Quess East Bengal in the 65th minute.
The game thereafter opened up to fierce attacks from both ends, with the hots having the better of the chances. The Aizawl defence and their young goalkeeper Lalawmpuia played beyond expectations to restrict the charging Red and Golds 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.
Quess East Bengal tried to make the most of the opportunity that was presented to them, but a solid defence line of Aizawl FC ensured that scoreline did not change any further.
Quess East Bengal, however, came really close to taking the lead on two occasions during the added time, but luck wasn’t on there side when the first one from Joby Justin his the post, eventually to be cleared out safely and the second one from Didika which just missed the goal by a few inches. The game came to an end with both Quess East Bengal and Aizawl FC sharing the spoils in a 1-1 tie.