East Bengal and Jamshedpur FC missed chances galore and then settled for a point each in an ISL-X match at the Salt Lake Stadium on Monday.
The barren tie in front of a crowd of less than 11,500 was not devoid of drama though.
Both teams could have got a penalty each, referee Jamal Mohamed’s faux pas with the cards — he flashed a red to Emil Benny only to change it to yellow after realising it was the Jamshedpur FC player who was fouled — and those missed chances.
On the eve of the match, East Bengal coach Carles Cuadrat had spoken about how he was banking on fan support to make the stadium a fortress, but the empty stands gave ample proof that fans were yet to listen to his call.
For the fourth year, East Bengal failed to make a winning start in ISL.
East Bengal seemed to have been denied a penalty three minutes into the second half. Jamshedpur FC defender Pratik looked to have cleared Jose Pardo’s freekick with his hand and there was a huge handball shout.
Referee Jamal Mohamed did not pay any attention even though television replays showed that it was a handball.
Jamshedpur FC also can cry foul. Deep into injury-time, a miscued header by an East Bengal player found the diminutive Imran Khan in front of goal.
As he was about to prod the ball home, Harmanjyot Singh Khabra and Jose Pardo went for a double tackle and seemed to have brought Khan down. Once again the referee turned a blind eye, even as the Jamshedpur FC bench burst out in protest.
Naorem Mahesh Singh of East Bengal in action
In the first half, East Bengal created a glut of chances. Javier Silverio had three opportunities, Naorem Mahesh Singh was guilty once and so was Borja Herrera.
Jamshedpur's Elsinho and goalkeeper TP Rehenesh were outstanding. The Brazilian defender made a number of clearances, while Rehenesh made consecutive double saves in the latter part of the first half.
Interestingly, East Bengal coach Cuadrat started with Naorem Mahesh Singh, who was not released by the club for the Asian Games squad since he returned from the national team’s King’s Cup commitment with an injury. He played for 89 minutes.