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Air-India 1:1 East Bengal Club
Goals: 1-0 Vijith Shetty (17'), 1-1 Baichung Bhutia (29')
Air-India: 21-Raju Ekka, 11-Hringsolal Thomte, 6-Uttam Leishangthem Singh, 2-Haobijam Napoleon Singh, 28-Abiodun Kolawole Martins, 19-Santosh Koli, 14-Javed Ansari (56' 4-Benoy Kuruvilla), 5-Vijith Shetty, 26-Soccor Velho (68' 10-T Narender Meetei), 20-Paresh Shivalkar, 30-Bashiree Mohammed Abbas
Not used: 22-Sunder Raj Rajan, 7-Anthony Fernandes, 3-Subhas Mondal, 9-Noel Fernandes, 18-Hamza Zaheer Abbas
East Bengal: 21-Abhra Mondal, 17-Surya Bikash Chakraborty (46' 6-Dipankar Roy), 26-Ngassa Ewane Guy Martial, 16-Covan Lawrence, 29-Soumik Dey (46' 9-Alvito D'Cunha), 7-Jayanta Sen, 28-Shylo Malswam Tulunga, 20-Ndem A Guy Kiyeck Herve, 22-Debabrata Roy, 32-Gouranga Datta, 15-Baichung Bhutia
Not used: 1-Naseem Akhtar, 12-Anupam Sarkar, 2-Muttath Suresh, 11-Kalia Kulothungan, 10-Mike Okoro
Referee: Abdul Saleem (Delhi)
Yellow Cards: Vijith Shetty (7'), Abiodun Kolawole Martins (35', both Air-India); Ndem A Guy Kiyeck Herve (9'), Jayanta Sen (65', both East Bengal)
ONGC Man of the Match Award: Paresh Shivalkar (Air-India)
East Bengal Club's quest for their fourth NFL title was hit by mid-air turbulence as the Calcutta giants were only able to play out a one-all draw against relegation fighting Air-India in a 10th National League match at the Cooperage Ground, Mumbai. East Bengal moved to 28 points from 14 matches to hand the initiative back to title rivals Mahindra United. Air-India moved a little away from the relegation zone with now 15 points from 14 matches.
It was the second time this season that the Red-and-Gold brigade could not beat the Airmen from Mumbai. The January 29 match in Calcutta had then ended goalless.
East Bengal started with their usual burst putting pressure on the Air-India defence, but it was the home team who took the lead in the 17.minute. Nigerian Bashiree Mohammed Abbas cross from the right was headed in by midfielder Vijith Shetty past East Bengal keeper Abhra Mondal's outstreched hands. East Bengal needed some time to regroup, but it was left to inform India skipper Baichung Bhutia to equalise in the 29.minute. East Bengal's Cameroonian midfielder Ndem A Guy Kiyeck Herve intercepted the ball in the middle to release it through a long ball for Baichung Bhutia, who beat a defender and goalie Raju Ekka to score his 11th goal of the NFL campaign. Baichung is now the league's top scorer. East Bengal could have gone ahead before the break but missed their chances easily.
After the break the match shifted into the East Bengal half with Air-India regrouping well and they started to put pressure on the Calcutta giants. Air-India where capably led by Paresh Shivalkar, who later got the "Man of the Match" award for his stellar performance, but his team wasted chances through Bashiree plus substitutes Paresh Shivalkar and T Narender Meetei, otherwise East Bengal would have left Mumbai with another loss. Still East Bengal also had a good chance through Cameroonian defender Ngassa Ewane Guy Martial's header which hit the crossbar, which could have also given them the victory.
Post Match Comments:
Bimal Ghosh (Air-India coach):
We should have won. We got unlucky.
In Mumbai we play well.
East Bengal were not playing like a combined team. I think Mahindras have a better chance to win the title now.
The wind played a factor in our tactics, and we tried to use it to good effect.
It was just one individual error and loss of concentration that cost us the equaliser. It was not the entire defence's fault, but just that of one person.
The refereeing was not upto the mark.
You see the Air-India colony ground we practise at is very similar to the Cooperage. But then when we go to a big ground, our tactics go off.
I employ tactics to score goals somehow and anyhow - be it long balls, throw-ins, whatever.
I switched to a 5-3-2 system in the second half.
Soccor Velho is inexperienced, and that is why he has not opened his NFL goalscoring account yet. To score a goal, you also require a bit of luck, and Soccor hasn't had it so far. Look at how Narender's shot didn't go in - that is why you need luck on your side.
Philippe de Ridder (East Bengal Club coach):
I would say that both teams had luck today.
They (Air-India) had quite a few good chances, but then we had some chances too.
Sometimes, a push or foul early on in the match can change the game. There were some really bad tackles. I'm not blaming the referee though, as he tries to do his best. Both sides are affected.
We have an attacking squad and like to play attacking football. Penalties are a part of the game and a way to score. So we try to get into the box and win penalties. But here, like also in Africa, you never get them, while in Europe if you touch an attacker, you concede a penalty. I understand the difficulty of being a referee. But we like to see beautiful football played by skilled players, and so such players should be protected, and not alowed to be harmed.
I'm happy that my boys gave 100%, but am obviously disappointed with the result.
Air-India played well too, and so it was a good match, as you need two teams to want to play.
Now we've to try and win the two games in Goa. Yes, we play five away games in a row in total, but my players are profesional players. When you are a pro, such things don't bother you.
We won 5 games in a row before our loss to Mahindra. And even in these last two games, we haven't played bad football. Before I took over the team, everyone was saying we were going to have a difficult season, we even might have to fight for relegation battle. But then everyone was talking about the title. So I am very happy we have reached so far up. Hopefully next year we will do even better.