KOLKATA: East Bengal failed to wrap up 2017 with a win as Neroca FC hold them for 1-1 draw in I-League 2017/18 at Khuman Lampak Main Stadium in Imphal on Saturday.
The Kolkata giants scored through Katsumi Yusa and they remain on summit of I-League standings with 14 points from 7 league games.
On the other hand, Nedo Turkovic struck late in the second half to give the hosts a deserved share of the spoils, who now sit at number three on the league table with 11 points from 6 games.
East Bengal were the more enterprising team through the first half, and they nearly claimed the lead 7 minutes into the game when Laldanmawia Ralte fired off a shot from the edge of the area, only to be denied by Neroca goalkeeper Lalit Thapa.
The subsequent corner kick produced another effort from the visitors, with Eduardo Soares getting on the end of the set piece delivery, though his glancing header flashed just wide of the far post.
In the 12th minute East Bengal were rewarded for their positive play, with Willis Plaza providing a perfectly weighted through ball to find the run of Katsumi Yusa, who easily slotted past Lalit Thapa to make it 1-0.
Neroca FC created little in reply, with their only notable attacking effort in the first half seeing Fabien Vorbe controlling a ball in the penalty area, but any hopes of getting away a shot were quickly crushed by East Bengal custodian Luis Barreto.
The hosts were better after the break, but continued to be frustrated by a disciplined East Bengal defense. Nedo Turkovic fored over the target six minutes into the second half, while a short while after Felix Chidi saw his goal-bound effort stymied by Barreto.
At the other end, Katsumi Yusa led a quick counter-attack, but his shot took a deflection and Lalit Thapa collected the ball with ease.
The embattled goalkeeper needed to make another top save shortly after the hour mark when a free kick from Mahmoud Al Amna found Charles De Souza who headed on target.
Meanwhile, Neroca FC tried to broke through East Bengal defense and threatened to score, but couldn’t finish.
East Bengal’s resistance was finally broken by Nedo Turkovic in the 89th minute as the Bosnian scored a stunner from outside the box to make it 1-1.
Thereafter, Neroca FC continued to attack in the injury time, but could not penetrate the East Bengal defense as the game ended in a stalemate.