Aizawl: Aizawl FC stunned East Bengal 3-2 after a sublime strike by super-sub Mapuia in the I-League here Saturday.
Owing to Mapuia’s 83rd minute strike, former champions Aizawl FC finally managed to win their first game of the ongoing league. Mapuia had been on the pitch for just seven minutes before he struck.
In a see-saw encounter that saw the lead swaying both ways, Ivorian Hero of the Match Zikahi Dodoz put the hosts ahead in the 25th minute, before Jobby Justin equalised in the 63rd minute for the visitors.
Spanish defender Borja Gomez put East Bengal ahead in the 70th minute, but his effort was cancelled out three minutes later by Joe Zoherliana.
Finally, Mapuia sealed the issue in his team’s favour with a strike off an assist by Dodoz. In the end, it turned out to be a combination of Dodoz’ efforts and a couple of Gift Raikhan substitutions which secured the win for Aizawl while for East Bengal,
their fate seemed tied to three Lalram Chulova set-pieces, two of which brought them goals while one was disallowed.
Both coaches made a few changes to the starting eleven. Raikhan brought back Gurpreet in goal and played Joe Zoherliana in defence and David in midfield, in place of Govin Singh and Duata respectively.
East Bengal had Ubaid in goal in place of Rakshit Dagar, which Spanish coach Alejandro Menendez might rue in hindsight and got in Chullova and Brandon in place of Samad Ali Mallick and Yami Longwah.
East Bengal had the better of the exchanges in the first quarter of an hour when Jobby Justin missed a couple of gilt-edged opportunities before Dodoz fired one straight to keeper Ubaid for Aizawl’s first chance in the 24th minute.
A minute later, a cross from the right brushed off Dodoz’ head and the loose ball was picked up by Kromah inside the box on the left. He laid it off to Rinfella whose powerful strike rebounded off Ubaid and fell in the path of Dodoz who placed it in the back of the net.
The goal spurred EB further and Mexican frontman Enrique Esqueda, in particular, missed a few close chances.
Referee Rosario Fernandes had to deal with a very physical first half as well and as many as four players got into his book as Aizawl took the lead into the lemon break.
After the initial sparring in the first fifteen minutes of the second half, the game sprung into life and a frantic 20 minutes followed. From an another Chullova free-kick in the 63rd minute, Jobby Justin swooped in to connect with a powerful header which beat Gurpreet although he did manage to get a touch.