Ten-man SC East Bengal held two-time ISL champions Chennaiyin FC to a 0-0 stalemate at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim on Monday after midfielder Ajay Chhetri was given his marching orders in the 31st minute for receiving a second yellow card in the game.
SC East Bengal Head Coach Robbie Fowler made three changes to the starting line-up as Anthony Pilkington, Surchandra Singh and Chhetri came in for Matti Steinmann, Rana Gharami and Harmanpreet Singh.
Playing their twelfth ISL fixture and sixth ‘away’ game this season, SC East Bengal, clad in their white-and-blue colours, dominated possession in the first quarter and looked to make inroads into the opposition half with Pilkington, Bright Enobakhare and Jacques Maghoma starting together for the first time this season.
However, it was Chennaiyin FC who came close to breaking the deadlock in the 23rd minute when Eli Sabia’s cross to Enes Sipovic off an Anirudh Thapa free-kick couldn’t be converted as Sipovic was unable to keep his header on target.
Chhetri, recently signed by SC East Bengal on loan from Bengaluru FC, received his second yellow card in the 31st minute for his challenge on Rahim Ali, and had to subsequently walk off.
The SC East Bengal players put up a resolute display thereafter and managed to restrict the opposition from getting on the scoresheet.
Narayan Das made a crucial clearance in the 43rd minute as he steered the ball out of play after Anirudh Thapa broke into the SC East Bengal box to get on the end of a through from Jerry.
Goalkeeper Debjit Majumder once again shone for the ‘visitors’ and made six saves to take his save tally to 41 – the highest this season.
In the 55th minute, Majumder pulled off a fine save to thwart a powerful shot from Esmael Goncalves, and a couple of minutes later, he made a routine save to keep out Edwin’s feeble shot on goal.
The SC East Bengal custodian made two more noteworthy saves in the final quarter, as he came off the goal line to deny an onrushing Rahim Ali in the 70th minute, and later blocked Lallianzuala Chhangte from close range in the 84th minute. He was adjudged the Hero of the Match for helping his side register their third clean sheet this season.
The result helped SC East Bengal extend their unbeaten run to seven matches. They remain rooted in the ninth position with twelve points from as many games (two wins, six draws and four losses).
Sharing his thoughts at the virtual post-match Press conference, Fowler said, “Even with ten men I thought we played better football. We are a team that does not want to get beaten. We want points and we want to win. We don’t want to lose matches and that can be seen with our performances.”
SC East Bengal play table-toppers Mumbai City FC next, at the Tilak Maidan on January 22.