East Bengal FC, in their opening match of ISL 2023-24, were held to a 0-0 stalemate by a resilient Jamshedpur FC outfit at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Monday.
Despite a few out-and-out chances for the hosts, Jamshedpur's mammoth defensive display, led by Elsinho, silenced the advancements.
East Bengal boss Carles Cuadrat opted for a lineup similar to the ones tested during their Durand Cup campaign, with the exception of Jordan Elsey who was ruled out of the season earlier. Jose Antonio Pardo replaced the injured Australian center-back.
Meanwhile, the Red Miners opted for a three-at-the-back system with Laldinpuia FC, Elsinho, and Pratik Choudhary.
Rallied on by the home supporters, East Bengal had the brighter start to the night with Nandhakumar Sekar darting down the right flank. However, right from the early exchanges, Scott Cooper's men showcased they weren't one to sit back and responded with wily attacks led by the likes of Alen Stevanovic and Jeremy Manzorro.
The Red and Gold Brigade recharged after the water break, had one foot on the pedal, and created a glorious chance in the 37th minute. Borja Herrera was sent down the left flank and after navigating his way into the box, the Spaniard cut the ball back for Siverio. But the latter, lunging towards the ball, failed to control his effort and it flew skywards.
However, East Bengal continued to up the tempo and create chance after chance. Borja Herrera had a cracking effort brilliantly saved by TP Rehenesh in the 43rd minute, followed by Naorem Mahesh Singh's attempt of the rebound.
If not for their custodian and the omnipresent Elsinho, who managed to intercept almost everything throughout the first half, Jamshedpur could've seemingly been a goal or two behind before the half-time whistle.
For the Torchbearers, they had very little to show for all their domination in the first 45, but the momentum was definitely in their corner ahead of the second half.
Lack of creativity in the final third costs both East Bengal FC and Jamshedpur FC
Coming out after the break, Jamshedpur FC started out with a physical approach. Meanwhile, East Bengal had a penalty shout denied after Saul Crespo's header struck the hand of Pratik Chaudhari. The Kolkata giants had all the right to feel hard done by as the replays showed it was a clear handball.
With the intensity slowly fizzling out, both sides brought on a couple of changes. Cleiton Silva and Mohammed Rakip came on for Borja Herrera and Souvik Chakrabarti, respectively.
Meanwhile, Scott Cooper made a triple change with Semboi Haokip, Rei Tachikawa, and Mohammed Sanan coming on for Pronay Halder, Daniel Chima Chukwu, and Alen Stevanovic, respectively.
While the substitution of former Inter Milan winger Stevanovic surprised a few, Cooper was adamant about bringing on more fresh legs.
In the 69th minute, Nandha yet again made one of his signature runs into the opposition half before setting up Saul Crespo. The Spanish midfielder's shot, however, thumped into the side netting. But as the minutes went on the lack of creativity for either side became growingly evident. Every pass in the final third felt rushed.
Mohammed Sanan himself through the right flank and drilled a low cross into the middle. Emil Benny skipped over it, and Semboi Haokip, at the far post, had a chance to home the winner against his former club. But when put under pressure by an opposition defender, his effort was wide of the target.
With both teams eyeing the winner, chinks started becoming visible in both sides' armor. However, none of the two teams were clinical enough to land the winning blow.
In a final throw of dice, Carles Cuadrat brought on 16-year-old Vanlalpeka Guite in place of Mahesh. But ultimately, both sides settled for a 0-0 draw in their opener with Jamshedpur evidently being the happier of the two sides.