East Bengal saved themselves the blushes with a late equaliser against Sporting Clube de Goa as they finished 1-1 in a Round 9 encounter of the Airtel I-League at the Duler Stadium, Goa, on Tuesday.
India internationals Dawson Fernandes and Mehtab Hossain scored either side of halftime for Sporting Clube and East Bengal respectively.
Sporting Clube took the field without three of their four foreign players but despite the absence of influential players like Arturo Garcia, Ogba Kalu and Boima Karpeh, Sporting Clube packed enough punch to surprise East Bengal.
Dawson Fernandes scored the opening goal of the match with a twice-taken penalty in the 39th minute after Victorino Fernandes was brought down inside the danger zone by Harmanjot Singh Khabra.
It seemed like Sporting had the three points in their bag until East Bengal captain Mehtab Hossain’s free-kick found the top corner of the Sporting net in the third minute of added time.
East Bengal, despite missing Edeh Chidi and Ryuji Sueoka, seemed stronger of the two teams and showed that they were the better team on the field in the first fifteen minutes.
Lalrindika Ralte was a constant threat and inside the first ten minutes, he had already created ripples in the rival camp with two attempts. His first attempt rattled the side netting from close and a few minutes later when Mehtab Hossan had picked him up with a brilliant long ball, he sent his effort wide.
That was, however, the only positives from East Bengal in the opening 45 minutes as Sporting Clube soon regained their confidence.
Pratesh Shirodkar and Rowlin Borges played with remarkable poise in midfield and created chances for Victorino, Dawson and Cajetan Fernandes. Cajetan first tested East Bengal goalkeeper Abhijit Mondal with a snap shot.
Next Jovel Martins went close and then Abhijit used his experience to cover Dawson’s pile-driver.
Victorino – who has got a National Team call-up for the two upcoming International Friendlies – brought cheers to the Sporting camp in the 39th minute when he won a penalty as Khabra failed to read his slick movement inside the danger zone.
Dawson stepped up to take the spot kick, and despite being asked to take the penalty twice because of an infringement, he beat Mondal on both the occasions.
East Bengal coach Marcos Falopa added strength to the strike force with the inclusion of Baljit Sahni but Sporting were defending resolutely in the second session.
Mehtab rattled the post with a free kick in the second minute of added time and a minute later, from an identical position, Mehtab did it again, this time the ball sailing into the top corner of the net.
It was heartbreak for Sporting Clube and a relief for East Bengal in the end.
(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)