Hero I-League: Kingfisher East Bengal FC vs Aizawl FC- Match Report
Aizawl hold the Red and Gold Lions to a draw away from home
Aizawl FC held Kingfisher East Bengal to a 2-2 draw in a dramatic late finish at the Salt Lake Stadium in the opening round of the 2017/18 Hero I-League on Tuesday.
Aizawl were beginning their 2017-18 campaign away to East Bengal — just as they had done eight months earlier in the previous season. They had capped the last season with a dramatic away draw to Shillong Lajong thanks to William Lalnunfela, and William did the star turn again on Tuesday, yanking his team back from the brink to help hold mighty East Bengal to a 2-2 draw in the season opener for both teams.
Kingfisher East Bengal lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with goalkeeper Mirshad and defenders Mehtab Singh and Deepak Kumar making their senior national league debuts. Mohammed Rafique wore the armband as Eduardo Ferreira, Armand Bazzaou, Mahmoud Al Amna, Katsumi Yusa and Willis Plaza’s inclusion made for an enviable foreign contingent for Khalid Jamil’s side against his former team.
Paulo Menezes preferred William Lanufela to lead the line with Yugo Kobayashi. Avilash Paul had his first taste of the Hero I-League since his Pune FC days and Alfred Jaryan skippered the side in a flat 4-4-2 system.
It was a game of fluctuating fortunes, and waxing and waning fluency, but one you couldn’t afford to take your eyes off for a second. Much of the talk before the game had been about how former Aizawl coach Khalid Jamil had taken away some of the best talent from last season from Mizoram to Kolkata — Mahmoud Al-Amna, Brandon Vanlalremdika and Lalramchullova were all influential in midfield and defence for the hosts — but the biggest impact inside the first hour was made by a former East Bengal player Avilash Paul, keeping goal on the night for Aizawl.
The home side started the second half on an attacking note. Amna moved to the right flank while Katsumi came to the number 10 position. The Red and Golds launched a series of attacks in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Avilash Paul pulled off back-to-back saves at the hour mark to deny Willis Plaza from scoring a goal for the fifth and sixth times respectively in the match.
Mehtab Singh was taken off in the 37th minute replaced by Chullova Pautu due to an injury.
Both the teams went to the tunnel with a 0-0 score at half time. However, the second half promised a goal-fest.
Avilash Paul was tested thrice around the hour mark but his resolute was broken by Katsumi Yusa’s corner-kick which took Brandon Vanlalremdika nudge towards Eduardo Ferreira and the former Mohun Bagan defender headed home, scoring on debut with his new club.
Another goal within six minutes sent the Kingfisher East Bengal fans into a frenzy when Paul could not judge the trajectory of the shot from Mohammed Rafique, taking a major deflection off Katsumi Yusa to double the lead for the Kolkata club.
Aizawl pulled one back within two minutes of East Bengal’s goal when David curled a free-kick inside the box which was headed in by William Lalnunfela.
The visitors weren’t afraid to throw themselves about and picked up a few cards in the process. It was William who made the biggest difference between the sides. The away side found the equaliser in the 96th minute to break East Bengal’s hearts. William Lanunfela scored his second goal of the night from a Lalthathanga Khawlhring corner with was was the last move of the match.
Aizawl showed their ‘Never Back Down’ spirits to made East Bengal fail to capitalize the opportunity and shared a point each from 2-0 down with 18 minutes left. The last year’s Champions team is all broken now, but what they have created showed that, they are ready to repeat the process all over again. The brave hearts are on the move from the first match of Hero I-League 2017-18.
East Bengal all over was the best team of Hero I-League 2017-18 so far. They held a 67% ball possession over the Highlanders, but failed to capitalize on the opportunities they got in front of the goal. Jamil will look into the matter thoroughly and develop his team’s defense into a better one.
East Bengal – Mirshad Michu, Deepak Kumar, Salam Ranjan Singh, Eduardo Ferreira, Mehtab Singh (Chullova Pautu 37′), Brandon Vanlalremdika (Surabuddin Mollick 88′), Bazie Armando, Katsumi Yusa, Mahmoud Al Amna, Md. Rafique, Willis Deon Plaza (Charles De Souza 84′)
Aizawl FC- Avilash Paul, Lalrinzuala Khiante, Masih Saighani, Kareem Omolaza, Lalram Hmunmawia, Lalmuankima, Alfred Jariyan, David Lalrinmuana (Lalthathanga 78′), William Lalnunfela, Leonce Dodoz, Yugo Kobayashi
Man of the Match- Katsumi Yusa (East Bengal FC)