A late equaliser from Kerala Blasters denied SC East Bengal their first win in the ongoing edition of the Indian Super League (ISL). Jeakson Singh found the net in the injury time to help Kerala rescue a face-saving point.
Earlier, Bakary Kone’s own goal had given East Bengal the lead. The Kolkata giants looked a much-imoroved entity on Saturday as they created a flurry of chances at the GMC Stadium.
But East Bengal’s inability to extend the lead came back to haunt them at the last minutes of the match with Kerala substitute Jeakson making sure Robbie Fowler’s men don’t overtake them in the points table.
Both Kerala and East Bengal, targeting a first win, made four changes apiece to their starting eleven. The contest got off to an electric start with both sides keen to grab the opener from the first whistle. Although Kerala shaded possession in the first half, it was East Bengal who created better opportunities and deservedly grabbed the lead, heading into the break.
The first big chance of the game came East Bengal’s way during the ninth minute as Albino Gomes was called into action early on. Haobam Singh, making his debut, received the ball outside the box and attempted to place his shot towards the far corner. But his shot was saved by Gomes.
Two minutes later, Kerala missed a great opportunity to grab the lead via a set-piece. Facundo Pereyra whipped in a fine cross from a corner and the ball fell towards an onrushing Costa Nhamoinesu, whose header clipped the top of the crossbar.
However, East Bengal soon made amends for the early missed opportunity as they broke the deadlock first. Jacques Maghoma threaded in a ball for Mohammad Rafique in the box. The latter attempted to square the ball for Anthony Pilkington at the far post. However, the ball trickled into the back of the net after striking Bakary Kone, who had put in a dive to clear it out.
Kerala made three substitutions at the break with Sahal Abdul Samad among those brought on. The changes proved effective as Kerala started the second half strong.
Kibu Vicuna’s men nearly drew parity in the 51st minute when another big chance went begging. Kone leapt high to meet Pereyra’s cross but his header only managed to find the side netting.
Kerala thought they had grabbed the lead in the 70th minute but were denied by East Bengal keeper Debjit Majumder. Sahal pounced on a loose ball that was cleared away and headed it towards substitute Jordan Murray. The striker displayed great control and struck it on the volley but Majumder pulled off a stellar save to keep his side in the game.
Maghoma had the chance to put the game to bed during the dying minutes but saw his effort saved by Gomes. It would come back to haunt them as Kerala popped up with a late equaliser. Jeakson headed in Sahal’s cross to save his side the blushes.