Aridane Santana’s injury time equaliser virtually ended the Red and Golds’ play-offs aspirations…
East Bengal were just four minutes away from registering their fourth win of the season and move up on the league table from the bottom three for the first time this season but a sudden lapse in concentrations by the defenders denied them three points and virtually ended their slim play-of hopes in the 2020-21 season of the Indian Super League (ISL).
For the first time in this season, the Red and Golds had fielded the same lineup in two consecutive matches. The win against Jamshedpur and the solid all-round performance in that tie encouraged coach Robbie Fowler to retain the winning combination against Hyderabad.
Hyderabad pressed very high right from the off and did not allow East Bengal any space at the centre of the park. The Nizams were successful in their plan as East Bengal looked uncomfortable with the ball and had less possession than Hyderabad. In fact, Manuel Marquez’ side could have very well taken the lead in the first half had the players been a little more clinical.
But the most hard-working player on the pitch for East Bengal was Anthony Pilkington who was practically everywhere in the attacking third. The Irish international was often seen coming down and try and create chances for the team.
In fact, it was Pilkington’s mobility that earned East Bengal the opening goal. The attacker came down to his own half and had managed to flick the long ball from Sarthak Golui with his head and made space for Bright Enobhakhare who managed to get behind the Hyderabad defence and find the back of the net with an immaculate finish.
However, East Bengal just could not hold on to their lead. The two full-backs, Ankit Mukherjee and Narayan Das, did not have the best of days. In fact, Mukherjee was partially at fault for the equalising goal as he was not vigilant enough and left Aridane Santana unmarked inside the six-yard box.
The Kolkata giants were unlucky too as Bright Enobakhare wasn’t awarded a penalty after he was stamped inside the box by Laxmikant Kattimani. However, Hyderabad too could have earned a penalty as Raju Gaikwad handled the ball inside the box from a long-range effort by Joao Victor.
Hyderabad looked much more threatening after the introduction of Fran Sandaza. The Spaniard did find the back of the net once but was rightly flagged offside. It was from his pass deep into the stoppage time that Aridane Santa found the equaliser.
The Nizams are unbeaten in their last nine matches, of which they have drawn six. However, with the race to book a place in the ISL play-offs heating up, they will have to step up and amass as many points as possible in order to be in control of their own fate.
Two of their next three matches are against teams from the top half of the ISL table – ATK Mohun Bagan and FC Goa. The going certainly won’t be easy.