East Bengal were held in Siliguri by a buoyant Shillong Lajong side with the match ending in a stalemate with both sides scoring one goal a piece.
Samuel Lalmuanpuia gave the away side the lead in the 20th minute only to see it being cancelled out by Willis Plaza in the 45th minute, while a barren second half spell meant that both teams had to be satisfied with a point.
Entering the halfway stage of the league, new Aussie recruit Chris Payne was given his first start as Trevor Morgan finally chose to tinker with his line-up as Robin Singh was relegated to the bench.
Thangboi Singto too preferred Bipin Singh over Rupert Nongrum after fielding the same eleven for five consecutive games.
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The Shillong based side started the game as the aggressors creating the majority of the chances and finally they had their prize in the twentieth minute as they opened the scoring.
Aser Dipanda’s ball to Bipin on the left produced a delightful cross for Samuel Lalmuanpuia to run in past Ivan Bukenya inside the box and head the ball past in a hapless TP Rehenesh to propel his side in front.
Dipanda five minutes later could have done a repeat of Robin Van Persie’s famous 2014 World Cup goal against Spain. Redeem Tlang’s cross was headed in perfectly and Rehenesh was called into action to save a second blush.
East Bengal grew frustrated as their midfield was completely nullified and Mehtab and co. hardly saw enough of the ball. It was Lajong who were dominating with Dipanda’s volleyed effort off an Isaac freekick going in, only for it to be disallowed due to an offside.
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A minute later, out of nowhere East Bengal had the equaliser in a similar fashion as Lajong’s goal. Lalrindika Ralte played in an overlapping Narayan Das on the wing whose cross found an unmarked Willis Plaza who had a regulation header as the Lajong defense were caught napping.
The equaliser at the stroke of half time gave East Bengal resolve to come back strongly in the second half.
Club captain Arnab Mondal made his first appearance of the season as he returned from a long injury lay-off for the second half, replacing Gurwinder Singh.
Shots were fired aplenty from both ends as Willis Plaza almost enforced an own goal off Chinglensana Singh but Vishal Kaith confidently held on.
Samuel Shadap came close to scoring from near the by-line as Mondal was beaten for pace but his low shot was held on easily by Rehenesh.
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Second half substitute Fabio Pena took a swipe from 19 yards past the hour mark but Rehenesh came off his line well to punch it clear.
The agenda for Shillong Lajong died down late into the second half as one point seemed the better option for Singto’s men as they pulled back to make up the numbers.
Romeo Fernandes was given a run out as he came in for Nikhil Poojary with about twenty minutes remaining but failed to deliver the killer pass.
The game ended Trevor Morgan’s initial target of securing at least four points from the Siliguri sojourn as two draws meant the league leaders were in danger of being usurped by Mohun Bagan, who had two games in hand and were only four points behind.
Shillong Lajong would be pretty happy walking away with a single point but their first half performances demanded a better script that what it was, when the final whistle was blown.