Prayag dent East Bengal’s title hopes

Kalyani (West Bengal), March 29 (IANS) Prayag United came back from two goals down to hold second-placed East Bengal 2-2 in an I-League match here Friday.

Desperately needing a win to join Churchill Brothers on top of the standings, East Bengal surrendered a cozy 2-0 lead and allowed Prayag United to neutralise the advantage with some costly defensive lapses in the second half.

All the hard work that East Bengal put together in gaining the 2-0 lead following goals from Edeh Chidi and Manandeep Singh (penalty) were nixed in four minutes within which Prayag United’s two most prized possessions – Carlos Hernandes and Ranty Martins – found the target in quick succession.

The first half was less active as the opponents devoted more time in having a measure of each other. The action revolved more around the midfield though Prayag United had a couple of opportunities early on, which Mohammad Rafiq and Martins could not convert.

East Bengal were more frugal in their approach as they made the most of the first good chance coming their way. Chidi opened the scoring for East Bengal in the 41st minute when he latched on to a floater and found the net rather fortuitously.

His powerful shot rebounded off the opponent goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee, hit the upright, and rolled over to the far end for second deflection before going into the net.

East Bengal maintained their hold on the match after the break and doubled the lead in the 49th minute. The Red and Gold brigade earned a penalty as Sangram hacked down an onrushing East Bengal midfielder Ishfaq Ahmed making a clumsy effort at clearing the ball.

Manandeep Singh made no mistake from the spot to double his team’s lead.

East Bengal looked well poised for a win but a costly slip by their goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu spoiled the party. Sandhu spilled a straight forward catch and let the ball slip home when he tried to block a powerful long shot from Carlos in the 63rd minute.

Prayag United clasped on to the lifeline and found the equaliser three minutes later. Carlos sent a perfect through ball, that caught the East Bengal defence napping and released Ranty free inside the box. The Nigerian made most of the opportunity and finished put the ball past a hapless Gurpreet.

East Bengal tried to regain the lead but failed in their bid as Sangram saved a 70th minute effort from Chidi while Ishfaq sent the ball wide of an open goal in his 82nd minute attempt. East Bengal continue to be in second position with 42 points from 22 matches while Prayag United have 35 from 22.

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