| Man of the Match Osumanu Husseini clears the ball from S. Venkatesh at Salt Lake Stadium Thursday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
EAST BENGAL 0 CHURCHILL 0
Calcutta: Churchill Brothers halted East Bengalís winning run in the Oil PSU National Football League at Salt Lake Stadium Thursday. The barren tie kept the city team on top of the table nonetheless as it took their tally to 13 points after five games. Churchill moved to four after five.
East Bengalís performance was similar to what had been in earlier matches ó bright in patches and listless otherwise ó but unlike those days, the goal eluded them. They did come genuinely close on a couple of occasions, but the question mark over their prowess in the attacking third remains, as does the doubt over their ability to increase men in the rival zoneís sensitive area.
Churchill, runners-up last season and struggling this time, looked as if they would be pleased to snatch a point and their approach wasnít any different. They appeared all too aware of the fact that caution is the name of the game in vital away matches such as these, and defended with almost everything for a better part of the match.
East Bengal started well with Alvito DíCunha failing to shoot in time in the third minute after being set up by Gilmar de Silva Goncalves, but the flair seen in the opening minutes faded as the match progressed.
Mike Okoro missed the chance of the day and S. Venkatesh failed to pack enough power in his header from close, but considering the kind of ball possession East Bengal enjoyed, just two proper openings in 90 minutes was a little too few.
With Churchill getting most men behind the ball every time East Bengal crossed the half-line, frustration crept into the red-and-gold camp and Douglas de Silva earned a yellow card which rules him out of Sundayís key match against Salgaocar. Even skipper Anit Ghosh, who left the turf with a knee injury in the 25th minute, looks doubtful for that game.
The match lit up for a while just before half-time when Gilmer got the ball near the centre circle inside his own half. The Brazilian released Okoro down the right with an exquisite left-footer which curled in just enough to help the Nigerian meet the ball in a perfect position and all he had to was to run in unchallenged for about ten steps and beat the íkeeper. Instead, he hit the ball into an advancing Edward Ansah.
Gilmer was at it again when he sent in a measured cross from the left in the 77th minute, which found Venkatesh inside the six-yard box, but the India internationalís feeble attempt was parried by the íkeeper and even the rebound wasnít dealt with properly. Gilmer had earlier released Douglas inside the box, but the Brazilianís compatriot pounded a wild right-footer wide of the mark.
Gilmer was very much the man who looked capable of making things happen, but he might not be the answer in East Bengalís search for a striker. With a classy left-footer and pleasant ability to distribute, Gilmer looks as if he is better used from a little deep so that he can create chances for others.
With Churchill rarely showing the urge to put East Bengal under pressure, the home defenders had a rather cool day and in doing so, maintained the teamís remarkable record of not conceding a goal in five games. East Bengal, in fact, is the only outfit in the 12-team league to have maintained a clean slate so far.
East Bengal: Sandip Nandy; Dipak Mondal, Arun Malhotra, Douglas da Silva; Anit Ghosh (M. Suresh, 25), Sashthi Duley, Alvito DíCunha, S. Venkatesh, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury (Surya Bikash Chakraborty, 85); Gilmar de Silva Goncalves, Mike Okoro (Shylo Malsawmtluanga, 72).
Churchill Brothers: Edward Ansah; Denzie Ferrao, Mahesh Gawli (Pio Rodrigues, 58), Osumanu Husseini, Rajesh Meetei; Roque Barreto (Zaheer Abbas, 76), Noel Wilson, Nascimento Silveira, Ratan Singh; Yusif Yakubu, Kasif Zamal (Anil Kumar, 81).
Referee: S.M. Baloo.