CUTTACK: East Bengal became the second team to qualify from Group A and progress to the semi-finals after they played a 0-0 draw against Aizawl FC in the Federation Cup at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack, Odisha today (May 11, 2017).
With this draw, East Bengal finish runners-up with five points out of three matches and set up the potential of a Kolkata derby in the semi-finals, given Mohun Bagan finish table toppers in Group B. Meanwhile, Aizawl FC finish top of Group A with seven points out of three matches.
Khalid Jamil made as many as eleven changes to the lineup that registered a 1-2 win against Churchill Brothers and complacency at the back was clearly visible of a young Aizawl FC side in the opening minutes.
Willis Plaza upfront and Wedson Anselme on the wings cause trouble at the back and in the 10th minute, Plaza came close to giving Kingfisher East Bengal the lead after his header flew inches past of the goal. Five minutes later, Plaza combined with Wedson, only for the former to earn a corner kick after the Aizawl custodian made a fine save from close range.
Aizawl FC recouped in the match but could only test Subhashish from distance, failing to foster any clear goal scoring chance. Plaza had a chance in the 37th minute when he was found in the box by a Narayan Das cross, but the Aizawl FC defence prevented him from releasing the shot. The half-time scoreline read 0-0.
In the 48th minute, Rafique wriggled into the box but his final delivery lacked the venom for Wedson to make a clean contact on and the Aizawl FC defence line mopped up the attempt.
Kingfisher East Bengal attacked in hordes with ammunition provided from the midfield by Rafique and Cavin Lobo. In the 54th minute, Lobo released an enticing cross but Plaza failed to connect to it.
Aizawl FC played with a deep line and their midfield dropped back to add numbers as Khalid Jamil’s men focused on soaking the pressure out. For East Bengal, chances missed up front took a toll and the Red and Golds failed to find the net even after having the majority of possession in the final third. The full-time scoreline read 0-0 as both Team shared the spoils of battle.