Leader Kingfisher East Bengal was unlucky to draw its 12th round ONGC I-League football game against Churchill Brothers 2-2 at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Saturday.
The local side was leading 2-1 till 90 minutes of play, but an injury time goal put paid to its aspiration of winning its 10th match. East Bengal, however, retained its position at the top of the table with 30 points with nine wins and three draws. This was Churchill's fifth draw. It has won six games so far to log 23 points.
East Bengal enjoyed an upper hand in the first half, creating a number of openings. But lack of urgency in the striking zone and some loose play denied it an early strike. Churchill was quick on counter-attacks, but its timing in floating crosses went awry.
After half-time, the teams showed better understanding and the will to go for goals. The game opened up following East Bengal's opening goal.
Orji Penn, who was very active in the striking zone, was brought down by Churchill's Denzil Franco inside the penalty area which resulted in a spot kick. Sanju Pradhan stepped forward to convert the chance, the goal coming four minutes inside the second-half.
Egged on by a sizeable crowd, East Bengal began to operate from the wings. Quick passes and measured crosses kept the Churchill defenders busy. Against the run of play came Churchill's equaliser as India international Steven Dias sent one lovely pass from centre to right.
Kayne Vincent found the net with a low header which beat Sandip Nandy in the goal. The success was indeed short-lived as East Bengal paid back in double quick time. It took just two minutes to devise a method to find the goal.
Robin Singh's through pass found Naoba Singh overlapping on the right. When the quick cross came into the box, Aussie striker Ozbey Tolgay was in position to head home to the delight of the home crowd.
Churchill tried to get back on even terms, but the Uga Okpara-led East Bengal defence stood firm to deny any further chance. As luck would have it, a moment of indiscretion in injury time presented a golden opportunity to Dias to bring about parity.
His cross was again met with a firm header by Vincent. The ball hit a defender and fell in close to the Kiwi, who calmly tapped it home to silence the boisterous home supporters.