Kolkata: The Kolkata giants started their I-League campaign on a poor note as they could only muster a point against the northeastern outfit. Gurwinder Singh’s own goal at the fag end of the first half was cancelled out by a late header by substitute Ivan Bukenya to earn a precious point for East Bengal in their opening I-League bout against Aizawl FC at the Barasat Stadium.
The first shot of the game came in the 15th minute when Wedson Anselme’s effort went straight into the hands of Albino Gomes. The visitors were held inside their own half as the Red and Gold brigade saw most of the ball.
Three minutes before the half-hour mark, Poojary ran down the left to beat Lalruatthara and his cross took a deflection off Kingsley Eze and fell right onto Wedson’s path but the Haitian’s shot was blocked by Lalrinzuala Khiangte inside the six-yard box.
It was an anti-climatic end to the first half as Gurwinder Singh scored a comic own-goal. Jayesh Rane found Stephane Bayi inside the box with the Ivorian being surrounded by three defenders. Gurwinder ended up smashing the ball into his own net as he looked to clear the danger, much to the disappointment of the assembled fans.
Morgan was compelled to change personnel in order to pressurise the Aizawl defence. Willis Plaza, who had just arrived in India less than 48 hours back, was brought in to replace Jackichand Singh.
Aizawl could have made it 2-0 but Jaryan’s header from a corner ricocheted off the crossbar as East Bengal thanked their luck. The Kolkata side were wasteful upfront with Plaza struggling to adapt and put away the chances that came his way.
Albert came close to doubling his team’s lead when he made a run down the right and his shot took a deflection off Bukenya which allowed Rehenesh to make a save. Albino Gomes pulled off a top save to deny Plaza from close range. However, Morgan’s team scored the crucial equaliser in the 90th minute. Ruidas’ corner is headed by Borges on the path of Bukenya who did well to guide it in, with Albino wrong-footed.
East Bengal surely need to improve if they hope to win the elusive title this season while Aizawl will be left wondering ‘what could have been’ had they converted their chances.