Selangor FA (Jusoh 79, Abdul Latif 90+3) 2-2 East Bengal (Penn 23, Ralte 54)
Selangor FA: Mohd Sharbinee Allawee Ramli;Mohd Asraruddin Putra Omar, Mohd Bunyamin Omar, Abdul Aziz, Abdul Latif; Michal Kubala (Mohd Amri Yahyah 39), Guruswamy Kandasamy (Mahali Jasuli 51), Abdul Shukor Jusoh, Mohd Raimi Mohd Nor, Mohd Ramzul Zahini Adnan (S. Kunanlan 72), Mohd Fitri Shazwan Raduwan.
East Bengal: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu; Harmanjot Singh Khabra (Naoba Singh 79), Gurwinder Singh, Uga Okpara, Robert Lalthalma; Ishfaq Ahmed, Mehtab Hossain, Penn Orji, Lalrindika Ralte; Andrew Barisic (Manandeep Singh 73), Edeh Chidi (Baljit Sahni 90).
East Bengal threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Malaysia’s Selangor FA in a Group H match of the AFC Cup, but the point was enough to take them through to the round of 16. Goals from Penn Orji and Lalrindika Ralte gave East Bengal a two-goal advantage and they looked comfortable until the sending-off of second-half substitute Manandeep Singh.
Selangor immediately made the most of their numerical advantage by pulling one back through Abdul Shukor Jusoh, and left-back Adib Aizuddin Abdul Latif equalised in stoppage time to keep the Malaysian club’s hopes alive of reaching the knockout stage.
East Bengal will be in the knockout rounds of Asia’s Europa League for the first time since 2004, but still need a point at home against Vietnam’s Sai Gon Xuan Thanh on matchday six to win the group and get home advantage for the one-legged round of 16 tie.
The two key absentees for Selangor were Slovakian defender Peter Chrappan and Liberian striker Francis Doe. Hence, their defence didn’t have any foreigners, while Mohd Ramzul Zahini Adnan started upfront with Slovak Michal Kubala operating just behind, in a 4-4-1-1.
East Bengal coach Trevor James Morgan gave young Gurpreet Singh Sandhu a start for the first time since his howler and misbehaviour in the 2-2 draw with Prayag United in the I-League earlier this month. Midfielder Ishfaq Ahmed also started on his return from suspension, while upfront, Andrew Barisic started alongside Edeh Chidi, a combination that destroyed Singapore’s Tampines Rovers in East Bengal’s last away game.
Just like Selangor’s first two home games, it wasn’t a great turnout at the Shah Alam Stadium, and the playing surface also looked a bit on the heavier side. Both sides started slowly and it was a very cagey affair in the early stages with East Bengal, who only needed a point to qualify, happy to play the waiting game.
The onus was on the home side to take the game to East Bengal and they did have the first shot on target, as Kubala produced a smart save off Gurpreet. East Bengal also had their first real attempt when Barisic tried his luck from a difficult angle but couldn’t hit the target.
East Bengal’s goal came almost out of nothing as Chidi’s attempted dribble took a deflection off a Selangor player and fell kindly to Penn inside the box. The Nigerian has been poor in front of goal all season, but on that occasion found the back of the net with a nice left-footed finish.
The red-and-gold brigade were in front without even getting out of second gear and the goal seemed to have brought the game to life as Kubala narrowly missed the target from outside the box, while Khabra nearly set up the second for East Bengal as he got behind the Selangor defence, but his low cross was parried away by Selangor custodian Mohd Sharbinee Allawee Ramli.
Selangor’s best opportunity of the first half fell to Mohd Raimi Mohd Nor after a fine cross by Kubala, but the winger’s effort narrowly missed the target. It was a thoroughly professional display from East Bengal in the first half and they went into the break with the slender advantage.
Kubala had been taken off a few minutes before the interval due to an injury and replaced by Mohd Amri Yahyah, and the Selangor substitute should have been sent off for his horrendous challenge on Mehtab Hossain at the start of the second period. However, the Malaysia international only received a yellow.
East Bengal were happy to concede possession to the home team but looked dangerous on the counter attacks, and from one such break they doubled their advantage.
Chidi was given the time and space to shoot and though his initial effort was saved by keeper Ramli, he pushed the ball back into the box. The rebound fell to Ralte, who found the back of the net with a trademark left-footer.
The Mizoram youngster had scored in the reverse fixture too, in February, and his team could and should have been three up when Penn won the ball in the Selangor half and created a four-against-two situation. However, Chidi somehow failed to find a teammate inside the box.
Amri Yahyah had Selangor’s first real attempt of the second half at the hour mark but it was saved by Gurpreet, who was looking for his third straight clean sheet in the AFC Cup.
East Bengal were comfortably heading for another away win, and it seemed like Selangor coach Irfan Bakti Abu Salim had also given up, as he took off their only natural striker Ramzul and replaced him with midfielder S. Kunanlan.
But the game changed completely when Manandeep was sent off just four minutes after replacing Barisic, for a late sliding challenge on Kunanlan. The foul wasn’t malicious, but needless and two-footed, and more importantly, right in front of the Selangor bench. The furious reaction of their coach Abu Salim unsurprisingly prompted the Hong Kong referee to produce the red card.
Even before East Bengal could reshape with ten men, Selangor pulled one back through Shukor Jusoh, whose powerful shot from 30 yards went past Gurpreet. The young keeper got a hand to it and would feel that he could have done better.
East Bengal were starting to lose their cool as Penn and Mehtab were booked in quick succession, and in the closing stages Gurpreet had to make a couple of decent saves to preserve the lead.
But the Kolkata club couldn’t hold on as on the third minute of stoppage time, left back Abdul Latif scored from a well-placed shot. It came after the referee awarded a dubious freekick to Selangor. Instead of putting the ball into the box, Amri Yahyah played the freekick back towards Abdul Latif whose effort from 40 yards unsighted Gurpreet and went into the back of the net.Published 23 Apr 2013, 21:48 IST