Kalyani: East Bengal and Punjab FC played out a 1-1 draw at the Kalyani Stadium in their I-League 2019-20 clash on Thursday, February 13. Both the goals were scored in the first half of the match, as Ansumana Kromah gave the home side the lead early on before Girik Khosla restored parity five minutes before half time.
After the draw, both East Bengal and Punjab FC maintained their positions in the I-League table, with Punjab staying second with 18 points and East Bengal in the relegation zone with 12 points.
Punjab coach Yan Law made wholesale changes to the starting eleven after their loss to Mohun Bagan. Displaying attacking intent, Law chose to begin with four forwards – Brazilian Valci Teixeira Junior leading the attack in place of Dipanda Dicka, along with the likes of Khosla, Makan Winkle Chothe and another of Punjab’s three Brazilians Sergio Barboza Junior.
East Bengal gaffer Mario Campesino left out Didika Ralte and Juan Mera to give Kamalpreet and Spanish striker Marcos Jimenez De La Espada their places back in the starting line-up.
Sanju Pradhan had the first shot on target for Punjab in the 8th minute but keeper Mirshad was able to thwart the attempt. Off the counter from the Red and Golds came the game’s second shot on target and its first goal.
Espada quickly played forward to fellow strike-partner Kromah, who received the ball well outside the Punjab box with two defenders guarding the channel in front. The Liberian kept moving forward and while giving the impression that he was going to drive further forward or pass, made room to his right and unleashed a scorcher of a pile-driver to bulge the Punjab net.
East Bengal seemed to have gotten inspired by the goal initially and increased the intensity of their attack. To Punjab’s credit, however, they absorbed the surge and slowly but surely found their way back into the game.
Chothe ran down the right and crossed for Teixeira, who was a tad late to connect with an outstretched right-leg. In teh 36th minute, Sanju’s shot was well saved by Mirshad.
The equaliser came in the 40th minute and it had two of Punjab’s three Brazilians involved. Danilo Augusto, who started the game in a new central-midfield role, began the move from the right holding off Abhash Thapa, to square it to Sergio Barboza Junior.
The stocky midfielder turned and floated a cross out wide on the left where Girik Khosla had made a run behind right-back Samad Ali Mallick. The Mumbaikar struck a brilliant left-footed volley, which whizzed past Mirshad into the left corner of the East Bengal goal.
Brandon could have restored the host’s lead just before the break when Espada found him with a square pass. The Mizo winger, however, missed the target. Chote similarly could have put the visitors ahead but took too long to decide on options with just the keeper to beat from close.
The second half also reflected the trend of the first with Punjab seemingly in control, but clear chances were few and far between.
Kromah and Sanju had two good strikes at goal within five minutes of each other but to no avail. Both coaches rang in the changes with Punjab bringing on Dicka while East Bengal giving Juan Mera a go.
The best chance of the half did fall to Kromah when in the 74th minute, off a mistake from Eze Kingsley, the ball fell to him in the clear and he rounded the keeper to shoot towards goal, only for it to be cleared off the line.
A flurry of corners in the dying minutes were the only other chances for Punjab but the winner did not come.
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