Durand Cup: East Bengal FC Hold Hard-working Indian Navy to Goalless Draw

East Bengal FC began their 131st Durand Cup campaign with a goalless draw against the Indian Navy in a Group B clash at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) on Monday. Harikrishna AU, the sailormen’s hard-working midfielder was awarded the man of the match in a game that saw the Red & Gold bridage dominate, particularly in the second half.

It was a cagey first-half with East Bengal FC coach Stephen Constantine, former coach of the Indian National team, opting go for a four-man midfield and an all-Indian eleven. His plans probably went haywire right at the start when Naorem Mahesh Singh picked up an injury and had to be replaced by Tuhin Das.

The only chance of note in the half probably came when East Bengal FC’s V.P. Suhair broke through inside the box and played it out wide to Tuhin, whose cross back in found Amarjit Kiyam in space, but the midfielder could not get the direction right.

East Bengal FC came out with intent in the second half. Coach Constantine brought on Brazilian Alex Lima in place of Aniket Jadhav at the break in a clear show of that intent.

Skipper on the day Sumit Passi, created the first chance of the half when his brilliant pile-driver from at least 30 yards out beat Navy keeper Vishnu and thundered the right upright before coming back.

With the opening goal still elusive, Constantine kept ringing in the changes brining in midfielder Souvik Chakrabarti and forward Mahitosh Roy in place of Angousana and Amarjit Kiyam to infuse fresh legs in attack.

Just before the drinks break, Suhair, who had a brilliant second half from the right wing, found Sumit Passi’s run in the box with a wonderful defence splitting cross, but the striker hit straight at the keeper. Lima was at hand to pounce on the rebound, but his hurried punch was way off target.

In the 82nd, Tuhin, who eventually had a good game, provided a great cross from the left and the ball crossed the keeper, crying out from a connection from an onrushing Suhair, but his slide missed the ball.

With three minutes of regulation time remaining, Tuhin delivered another great cross , but the header from Passi brought off a brilliant flying save from Vishnu. Lima was again at hand for the rebound but yet again failed to score from close.

East Bengal FC take the field next at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan on August 25 to face Rajasthan United FC while the Indian Navy will be seen in action against ATK Mohun Bagan on August 31 at the same venue.

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