Heavyweights East Bengal were held to a goal-less draw by Rajasthan United in a fast-paced Durand Cup match at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan (KBK) here on Thursday. East Bengal had more chances in the Group B game and also more possession, but the Rajasthan side missed a penalty in the second half.
Rajasthan United and Mumbai City FC are currently the top two teams in the group. EB coach Stephen Constantine made four changes to their starting line-up, bringing in Alex Lima, Tuhin Das, Jerry Lalrinzuala and Cypriot Charalambos Kyriacou in place of the injured Naorem Mahesh Singh, Mobashir Rahman, Pritam Singh and Wahengbam Angousana. RUFC gaffer Pushpender Kundu made just one change, bringing in Brazilian forward Sergio Barboza Junior in place of Alister Anthony.
EB were in charge from the get go as RUFC absorbed the pressure in front of a noisy 12,000 strong home crowd. Just after an injured Ankit Mukherjee was replaced by Md. Rakip, Aniket Jadhav, who had a superb game down the right flank, drove into the box and cut back for Amarjeet whose shot, however, grazed the cross-bar.
Lalremsanga Fanai got RUFC’s first shot on target off a corner, but his acrobatic volley went straight to the keeper Kamaljit. Constantine effected two changes at the break, replacing Amarjit Kiyam with Souvik Chakrabarti and Spaniard Ivan Gonzalez with Kyriacou.
However, the golden chance to score came RUFC’s way in the 61st minute when Lalremsanga was brought down inside the box by Souvik and referee Crystal John had no hesitation pointing to the dreaded spot. The effort from Barboza Junior was weak and Kamaljit saved it easily. In another match in Guwahati, Army Green wasted chances in the second half to play out a goalless draw against Sudeva Delhi FC.
Sudeva dominated possession in the first half and made it hard for the Greens in the middle of the park, but the Army men created more chances in the second. The beginning was intense with both teams pressing high to retain possession. This created a lot of changeovers as both midfields could not maintain the ball for long periods of time. Sudeva slowly started to control the game and created some moves in the Greens half. The Army men were not able to move beyond the midfield, but they defended well with Soubhagyan Somraj and Sebin Varghese leading the back line. The Army defence were also helped by Sudeva, who were not clinical in the final third.
The best chance of the first half came in stoppage time. A dead ball kick from Army Green captain P.C Lallawmkima found an unmarked Anurag Gusain, who had the the whole post free but his header went over the bar. The score remained 0-0 at half time. Army Green dominated the second half and controlled the proceedings. Manager Robikanta Singh made changes that saw the Army team piling on the pressure on the Sudeva defence. Substitute Alan Thapa had an excellent outing on the left flank, making darting runs through the wings and putting in the crosses. One such move saw Alan’s cross completely missed by Albion Jose, who found himself unmarked inside the box.
Army Green were creative with their set pieces. A corner from the right found Lallawmkima, whose header went wide even after Sebin’s attempt to divert it in. Sudeva captain Nishchal Chandan defended well to deny the Greens. The draw took Army Green to four points from two matches and Sudeva have two points from the same number of matches.