East Bengal and Odisha share points in a cagey affair

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Neither team could produce clear-cut openings

One of the most improbable results of the Indian Super League was produced on Friday at Kolkata’s Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan. East Bengal and Odisha, who usually are always involved in goal-fests, played out a 0-0 draw.

East Bengal head coach Carles Cuadrat made only one change to the team which held Mumbai City to a goalless draw. Midfielder Saul Crespo was unavailable after picking up a knock in training and he was replaced by fellow Spaniard Jose Antonio Pardo, who returned after serving his one-game suspension.

On the other hand, Odisha coach Sergio Lobera also made one change to the team that won 3-0 against Hyderabad. Pranjal Bhumij dropped to the bench in this match, with Jerry Lalrinzuala taking his place.

The game had a sedate start, as East Bengal made it clear they were more than happy to defend in the first few minutes of the game. Isak Vanlalruatfela had a couple of chances inside the first ten minutes, but while his first shot was blocked, his second attempt was saved by East Bengal goalie Prabhsimran Gill.

The half-chances kept on coming, as the next few minutes saw Odisha’s Ahmed Jahouh and East Bengal’s Cleiton Silva trying their luck, but to no avail. The first major chance took 25 minutes to arrive, and when it did arrive, it fell for the Kalinga Warriors.

Amey Ranawade, who looked quite lively down the right flank throughout the match, delivered a good cross for Roy Krishna, but the Fiji international could not guide his header on target to get his team the lead.

Just two minutes later, East Bengal could easily have found the lead. After receiving a pass from Silva, former Odisha winger Nandhakumar Sekar wiggled his way past plenty of white shirts before finding him one-on-one with Amrinder Singh, but his shot was saved by the Odisha goalkeeper’s leg.

The possession was mostly dominated by the Kalinga Warriors, who had two more half-chances in the next few minutes. A defense-splitting through ball from Puitea in the 34th minute found Jerry Mawihmingthanga in a good position inside the box, but his left-footed shot went wide. Krishna tried his luck again four minutes later, but he was not clinical in this game.

Against the run of play, East Bengal had a rare chance in the 40th minute when Hijazi Maher’s pass found Borja Herrera in space. While the Spaniard’s shot had a lot of venom, it was directed straight at Amrinder.

The first chance of the second half came to East Bengal too. Just three minutes after the resumption, the Torchbearers got a corner which was initially cleared, but the rebound fell to Pardo. His shot had power too, but once again the attempt was directed straight at Amrinder.

Just two minutes later, another sublime cross from Ranawade found Jerry in the box, but his shot was wide again. But he almost redeemed himself in the 59th minute, when he launched a pin-point cross from the right flank. His delivery found Isak completely unmarked, but his header struck an East Bengal defender.

Jose Antonio Pardo put in a great shift in the absence of Saul Crespo

In the 72nd minute, the home side was awarded a free-kick from a decent position, but Pardo blasted the shot into the middle tier of the stadium. However, that chance marked the start of East Bengal’s press as all Odisha did in the last 15 minutes was to defend for their lives.

In the 81st minute, substitute Vishnu PV made a darting run down the right flank before having his shot blocked. Maher also tried a header from a Silva cross but proved why he plays as a centre-back and not as a striker.

The best chance for East Bengal came in the 82nd minute when Naorem Mahesh found some space down the left flank and launched a cross for Silva. The Brazilian had managed to beat his marker and had the entire goal to aim for, but somehow dragged his shot wide.

The injection of Javi Siverio added more strength to East Bengal’s attacking department, and the Spanish forward could easily have won his team a penalty in the 90th minute. His strike from the rebound off a corner caught an Odisha player before clearly striking the arm of Mourtada Fall, but the referee was unmoved.

Shouts of a penalty were even louder just a few moments later when Vishnu beat his marker down the right flank before Jerry brought him down by pulling his shirt, but yet again, the ruling was in Odisha’s favour.With this draw, East Bengal remained in the 7th position with 11 points from 10 matches. Their next match is in the Super Cup against Hyderabad on 9 January, while Odisha, who is fifth with 18 points from 10 matches, will face Jamshedpur on Friday in the early kick-off.