| Rahim Nabi after scoring East Bengals equaliser on Saturday. A Telegraph picture |
Calcutta: East Bengal finished sixth in the inaugural I-League, playing out a 1-1 draw with Sporting Clube de Goa at the Barasat stadium on Saturday.
Sporting Clube de Goa took the lead in the 22nd minute, thanks to Joseph Pereiras strike out of a melee. Man of the Match Syed Rahim Nabi restored parity for the hosts in the second half, leaving both the teams tied with 19 points on the league table. East Bengal, however, pipped the Goan rivals to the sixth place with a better goal difference.
It has been a very emotional journey for me, East Bengal coach Manoranjan Bhattacharjee, who took over after Subrata Bhattacharyas resignation over a month ago, said after the match.
I accepted the challenge because I had a point to prove. East Bengal have given me name, fame and everything. So I couldnt turn down their emergency call. When I was the coach in 2002, we were in a similar position, having collected just 10 points from nine matches. But I was unceremoniously removed from the post (to be replaced by Subhas Bhowmick). This time the task was bigger than in 2002. Had I not been removed in the middle of the league six years ago, I wouldnt have disappointed the club, Manoranjan said, emotionally. East Bengal finished fifth under Bhowmick in the 2002 National Football League.
With the relegation threat over, East Bengal had nothing but pride to play for. It was the visitors who gave Manoranjans side a rude awakening in the 22nd minute. Denzil Franco sent Lawrence Adjei free on the right.
The Ghanaian, having steered clear of Debabrata Roy, whipped in a perfect cross to Junior Obagbemiro at the other end. The latters prompt attempt was saved by goalkeeper Subrata Paul. However, the ball ricocheted off the bar and fell near Pereira, who had no difficulty in snapping up the rebound.
Stung by the setback, East Bengal upped the ante, Edmilson and Nabi missing the target in quick succession.
It was almost a one-way traffic towards the Sporting box and East Bengal were level within 11 minutes of the restart. Nabi rose to the occasion, out-jumping his challengers to meet a corner from Alvito DCunha, the ball crashing into the roof of the net.
Mohun Bagan finished the tournament fourth, having played out a goalless draw with Mahindra United in Mumbai.
East Bengal: Subrata Paul; Surkumar Singh, Julius Owinho, Anupam Sarkar, Debabrata Roy; Mehrajuddin Wadao; Syed Rahim Nabi, Jayanta Sen, Mehtab Hussain, Alvito DCunha; Edmilson.
Sporting Clube de Goa: Gerald DMello; Parminder Singh (Rajesh Meetei, 75), Matthew Gonsalves, Felip Gomes, Chandrasekhar Rao Chinta; Joseph Pereira, Wilton Gomes (Bibiano Fernandes, 84), Denzil Franco, Bisheswar Singh; Junior Obagbemiro (Fredy Mascarenhas, 73), Lawrence Adjei.
Referee: P.K. Bose.