‘So close yet so far’ – Late goals and misfortune stalk East Bengal as Hyderabad rue misses an opportunity

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Aridane Santana’s injury time tie practically ended the Reds and Golds’ play-off aspirations …

East Bengal was just four minutes away from recording their fourth win of the season and moving up the league table from the bottom three for the first time this season, but a sudden lag in defenders’ rallies denied them all three points and virtually ended his slim game hopes in the 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) season.

For the first time this season, the Reds and Golds had lined up the same lineup in two straight games. The victory against Jamshedpur and the solid performance in all aspects in that tie encouraged coach Robbie Fowler to retain the winning combination against Hyderabad.

Hyderabad pushed very hard from the start and did not allow East Bengal any space in the center of the park. The Nizams succeeded in their plan as East Bengal seemed uncomfortable with the ball and had less possession than Hyderabad. In fact, Manuel Márquez’s team could have taken the lead in the first half if the players had been a little more clinical.

But the hardest-working player on the East Bengal field was Anthony Pilkington, who was pretty much everywhere in the attacking third. The Irish international was often seen coming down and trying to create opportunities for the team.

Lluis Sastre, East Bengal vs Hyderabad FC

In fact, it was Pilkington’s mobility that earned East Bengal the first goal. The attacker reached his own court and had managed to hit the long ball by Sarthak Golui with his head and made room for Bright Enobhakhare, who managed to get behind the Hyderabad defense and find the back of the net with a flawless shot.

However, East Bengal simply could not maintain its leadership. The two wingers, Ankit Mukherjee and Narayan Das, did not have the best of days. In fact, Mukherjee was partly to blame for the tying goal, as he was not attentive enough and left Aridane Santana unmarked within the six-yard area.

Aridane Santana, East Bengal vs Hyderabad

The Kolkata giants were also unlucky, as Bright Enobakhare did not receive a penalty after Laxmikant Kattimani kicked him inside the area. However, Hyderabad could also have earned a penalty as Raju Gaikwad handled the ball inside the box after a long-distance effort from Joao Victor.

Hyderabad seemed much more threatening after Fran Sandaza’s presentation. The Spaniard found the back of the net once, but was rightly flagged offside. It was from his pass in the bottom of injury time that Aridane Santa found the tie.

The Nizams are undefeated in their last nine games, of which they have drawn six. However, with the race to reserve a spot in the ISL play-offs, they will have to step up and rack up as many points as possible to be in control of their own destiny.

Two of their next three matches are against teams from the upper half of the ISL table: ATK Mohun Bagan and FC Goa. The march will certainly not be easy.

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