Siliguri, Feb 15: League leaders East Bengal dropped points at home for the second game in a row as they played out a 1-1 draw against Shillong Lajong in an I-League tie at the Kanchenjunga Stadium here on Wednesday, February 15.
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Fresh from a dour 0-0 stalemate against arch-rivals Mohun Bagan, the red and gold brigade trailed by a Samuel Lalmuanpuia (20th minute) goal for 25 minutes before Willis Plaza (45th) restored parity.
But a good show under the bar from Lajong goalkeeper Vishal Kaith prevented the home team from registering a win.
The result saw East Bengal stay top of the table with 21 points from nine matches while Lajong moved to fourth with 13 points in their kitty from nine games.
It was all East Bengal in the early stages as Plaza and Wedson Anselme came close while debutant Christopher Payne looked rusty with his first touches.
Wedson came close to scoring but Kaith saved well, diving low to his right.
But against the run of play, Lajong took the lead. Dipanda Dicka passed wide to Bipin Singh inside the box on the left. An unmarked Bipin then crossed for Lalmuanpuia who headed home.
The visitors could have led by two goals moments later, but Dipanda's diving header was parried away by East Bengal custodian T.P. Rehenesh.
Plaza scored his sixth goal of the season at the stroke of halftime, turning in Narayan Das' cross with aplomb.
Experienced East Bengal defender Arnab Mondal made his season's debut after the break, replacing Gurwinder Singh at centre back.
In the 49th minute, Payne got his first crack at goal but the Australian's shot was meek with Kaith having no difficulty in saving it.
East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan replaced U-22 player Nikhil Poojary with Romeo Fernandes in the 71st minute in the hope of a goal. The signs were right as the game-time deprived former Dempo SC winger won a corner with his initial touches but nothing came off it.
Kaith pulled off some superb saves to deny East Bengal in the final quarter as Lajong coach Thangboi Singto looked to settle for a point, bringing in defender Dan Ignat in place of goalscorer Lalmuanpuia.
In the end, both outfits shared the spoils.