AFC Cup: East Bengal come from behind to play out entertaining 1-1 draw with Kitchee SC
East Bengal held Hong Kong’s Kitchee SC to an entertaining 1-1 draw at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. Juan Belencoso scored the opening goal of the match in the 30th minute while Ranti Martins levelled the match for East Bengal in the 73rd minute.
Kitchee started the game as favourites, as they were clearly stronger than the Indian outfit on paper. Also, East Bengal were missing key first team defenders, who are on national team duty.
Kitchee dominate but could only score once
The away side deployed possession tactics from the beginning of the match. They kept the possession of the ball to themselves but never attacked the goal. East Bengal mostly played a counter-attacking game. From one such counter attack, Ranti Martins could have scored in the fourth minute, but fortunately for Kitchee, his effort was blocked on the line.
The game started at a very slow pace and was becoming dull, as neither of the teams were showing the necessary invention to score. Kitchee's players were showing sparks in between when they got a few half-chances, but couldn't capitalise on them.
Around the 25th-minute mark, the away team's goal machine Juan Belencoso came very close to scoring the first goal for his team. He attempted a shot from almost six yards out but Abhijit Mondal pulled off a brilliant save to deny the Spaniard.
Finally around the half hour mark of the game, Juan Belencoso finally found the back of the net. Jordi Tarres floated a cross which was well received by his fellow Spaniard, who edged past the defence with ease and scored.
Kitchee FC went into the half time break with a goal’s advantage. East Bengal, on the other hand, had to find their way back from the deficit to avoid a home defeat.
Determined East Bengal come back in second half
East Bengal looked more determined in the second half and were attacking with more intensity. Kitchee were forced to defend in numbers and the possession stats reversed. Around 60 minutes, from a decent counterattack, Jordi Tarres unleashed a pile driver, but it hit the crossbar and came back. as Abhijit Mondal stood no chance.
10 minutes later, Juan Belencoso got a golden opportunity to increase his team’s lead. Tarres floated a cross from the right side. Milan Susak failed to mark Belencoso, who had to convert a header from barely any distance, but the ball went over.
The immediate move resulted in an equalizing goal for the home side. Abhijit Mondal’s long goal kick was flicked on by Dudu on the other half. Ranti received the ball, kept his composure and coolly found the back of the net.
Kitchee FC could have won the match by a bigger margin, but their forwards missed a number of golden opportunities, with Tarres and Belencoso themselves guilty of missing genuine chances.
In the 84th minute, East Bengal got an opportunity to win the game. Raju Gaikwad’s long throw was headed goalwards by Ranti Martins, but one of the Kitchee defenders spectacularly stopped the ball at the goal line.
Mama was also at fault in the dying moments for not scoring from very close range after Dudu created a good ball for him. He just had to go forward and kill the match, but he faltered and his lack of confidence was punished by an opposition defender who cleared the ball.
Overall, it was an entertaining match, as both sides deserved a point at least. East Bengal can take a lot of positives from this encounter and the team is shaping up well under Eelco Schattorie.