East Bengal held Minerva Punjab in a 1-1 draw in their second game of the football season at the Guru Nanak Stadium, Ludhiana on Saturday. The Red and Golds were struggling to get going in the I-League game and fell behind the hosts but the visitors somehow restored parity in the second half to split points.
East Bengal reached Ludhiana at 4 am on the day of the match and hardly had any time for recovery and training at the venue for the upcoming clash and it showed in the form of extreme fatigue in the team. The visitors could hardly get going. Minerva Punjab were looking robust with an intent to win from the outset. They took the lead through Danilo in the 13th minute. The Brazilian defender headed home from the corner by rising up above everyone else.
East Bengal got chances to score twice in the next five minutes but both the chances were squandered by Jaime Colado and Kassim Aidara in front of an empty net. East Bengal continued to look very complacent and shaky and hardly got any clear cut chances to score in the remaining half. Minerva Punjab resorted to long balls towards their lone striker Dipanda Dicka which almost paid off in the 35th minute when the former Mohun Bagan man was clear on goal and just had to take the shot but was dispossessed in time by an on-rushing Mehtab Singh. The teams were indulged in a prolonged midfield battle till the end of the first half.
Minerva Punjab continued their passive play in the second-half and troubled the East Bengal defence. Barbosa and Dicka were quick upfront and kept Marti Crespi and Mehtab Singh busy. The visitors were dealt a blow when Tondomba Naorem was substituted for PC Rohlupuia due to a suspected injury. Sanju Pradhan and Cavin Lobo found Dicka in good positions on numerous occasions, but the Cameroonian failed to capitalise on any of the goal-scoring chances.
The attacking trio of Marcos Espada, Jaime Colado and Juan Mera Gonzalez were out of touch and looked very tired throughout the 90 minutes. They seldom chased loose balls and went for shots. However, a shot from Juan Mera in the 84th minute somehow ended up in the back of the net to restore parity. East Bengal upped the ante for the next five minutes but it was already too late to win the game and the game ended in a draw.
East Bengal will now be travelling to Imphal on 10 December to face NEROCA. Minerva Punjab will play host to Chennai City on the same day in Ludhiana.