The Islanders played out a frustrating goal-less draw against SC East Bengal on Friday, 7th January at the Tilak Maidan Stadium. The game saw Vinit Rai making his debut in sky blue.
Des Buckingham opted to bring in Phurba Lachenpa between the sticks, as opposed to Mohammed Nawaz from last time. Meanwhile, Renedy Singh rung in two changes – Bikash Jairu for Naorem Mahesh, and Amarjit Singh for Tomislav Mrcela.
The game was cagey from the get-go. Scrappy tackles, and trigger-friendly clearances left the game no opportunity to get into any rhythm. SCEB’s first shot was one from outside the box wherein Sourav Das smashed it over the crossbar following a headed clearance.
Our first shot came only a minute after this. Vignesh’s curling cross from the left went to Igor Angulo, who headed it straight at the keeper.
SCEB got off yet another shot following a long throw in the 12th minute. This time it was Chukwu who tried to get a shot off from a narrow angle. However, the ball skid wide of the goalframe.
The Red and Golds also suffered from an injury in the first half. Joyner Lourenco had to be subbed off in the 18th minute, and Ankit Mukherjee took his place.
A gilt-edged opportunity nearly came through in the 22nd minute, when Raynier Fernandes’ cross hit Bikash Jairu’s outstretched arm inside the box. Surprisingly, the referee chose not to give a spot-kick and instead continued play.
Another contentious decision came soon after, wherein Cassio Gabriel was brought down in the penalty area after a challenge from Adil Khan, which eluded the ball. Yet again, a penalty was not given.
The rest of the half was capped off by a couple of long range shots by Ahmed Jahouh and Apuia, owing to the rigorous nature of the game.
SC East Bengal opened the second 45 with their second change of the night – Mohammed Rafique came in for Bikash Jairu.
The second half was much like the first – unyielding and marred with puzzling decisions. A couple of long rangers from Cassio came before the hour-mark, one demanding a save from Arindam and giving us a corner.
Our new Islander, Vinit Rai, made his debut in the 64th minute when he came on for Raynier. Cassio Gabriel also made way for Ygor Catatau.
The second drinks break also saw two changes being made before and after it, Darren Sidoel came on for Amarjit Singh and Bradden Inman came on for Igor Angulo.
Ahmed Jahouh also picked up his fourth yellow card of the season after a high boot on Chukwu in the 80th minute.
The boys in blue had a surge of energy late in the game, pouring forward in numbers to snatch a late winner. The effort seemed to have paid off when the Torchbearers resorted to pulling down Mourtada Fall inside the box to prevent a promising shot. Yet again, the referee stood unconvinced and made no call.
SCEB clung on to the 0-0 scoreline, clearing every sign of danger and even picking up a yellow card for time-wasting. As a result, both teams went into the tunnel sharing a point each.
The Islanders, after the halfway mark in our league campaign, lead the pack by a solitary point albeit having played a game more than second placed Hyderabad FC. Des Buckingham's troops will be up against Bengaluru FC next on the 10th of January at the Fatorda.