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East Bengal, Al Jaish draw goalless
September 15, 2004 21:07 IST
East Bengal failed to capitalise on rosy chances on a rain-fed turf and finished goalless with Syrian outfit Al Jaish in the first leg of the AFC Cup quarter-final in Kolkata on Wednesday.
The slushy ground at the Salt Lake stadium made it difficult for the players to manoeuvre, with the visitors seeming more at a disadvantage, failing to adjust to the conditions which worsened as the rain intensified with the passage of time.
The first half was a pedestrian affair, and the two sides made sporadic raids. The locals had the upper hand but their efforts were hampered due to a non-functioning midfield and the inability to make optimum use of the flanks, though whenever they stretched the game the Syrians seemed deep in the woods.
East Bengal tightened the screws as the match progressed, and were all over their opponents after the break. As the traffic flowed time and again towards the Al Jaish citadel, the Syrians escaped the blushes mainly due to a lack of penetrative ability on the part of the home side forwards and height advantage of their defenders.
There was much excitement towards the close of the first half when Uzbek referee Lusullin Naii reversed his decision and disallowed a goal scored by Bijen Singh, leaving the 40,000 East Bengal supporters dismayed.
Alvito D'Cunha initiated the move from the left and Dipankar Roy's first attempt was returned from the goalline by an Al Jaish defender before Bijen slotted the rebound home.
Though Naii signalled a goal, the assistant referee raised his flag, pulling up Roy for a foul on custodian Redwan Al Azhar. Naii awarded a free-kick to Al Jaish after consulting the assistant referee.
Earlier, the Syrians were lucky not to concede a self goal in the second minute when Mohammad Tarik Khalaf almost put the ball into the net in his attempt to send a backpass to goalkeeper Redwan Al Azhar.
Though the goalkeeper was beaten, the ball narrowly went out, as the Syrian players and officals heaved a sigh of relief.
Douglas D'Silva, who braved a muscle tear to put up a sterling display in the creative zone, set up overlapping right back Syed Rahim Nabi with a short pass in the 17th minute, but the latter's inviting centre was headed out by an Al Jaish defender.
The Syrians, pushed on the defensive, came close to scoring in the later part of the session as the dangerous Zyad Shaabou cut in from the left, foxed a couple of East Bengal players, but then instead of taking a shot, tried to pass on the ball and wasted the chance.
The East Bengal medios put up a markedly improved show in the second half with Douglas and D'Cunha drumming up a good combination to create havoc in the Al Jaish defence.