Veteran Xavier rescues HASC

E Bengal draw leaves Aircraftmen on the brink of relegation

In a match that could have easily ended 5-5, a Xavier Vijay Kumar special gave the Aircraftmen a 1-1 draw against the Kolkatans, after substitute Ravinder Singh had given the away side the lead.

With the draw, HASC are now all but relegated to the second division with 21 points from 25 matches. HASC can get to 24 points if they win their last match to Dempo on June 1 in Goa, but they have a very poor goal difference compared to JCT and Air India who are on 24 points from 25 matches. ONGC have 23 from 25.

East Bengal’s title aspirations also ended with the draw as they are five points behind leaders Salgaocar with just one match to go. A healthy crowd welcomed top-level football back to the venue, and were witness to some non-stop goalmouth action right from the off.

East Bengal should have taken a 2-0 lead within the initial two minutes. Tolgay Ozbey was instrumental in both occasions, first latching on to a good diagonal from Sanju Pradhan, something the Kolkata side tried time and again with but were caught offside umpteen number of times. Ozbey’s forward burst from the left saw him gliding past HASC goalkeeper P Pramod, and he had only the target to hit, but Lilliyan Kennath cleared the Australian’s effort on the line.

The second chance came a minute later. Chongtham Sushil Kumar Singh found space inside the HASC box and his effort was well saved by Pramod. But the rebound fell kindly to Ozbey who again had the goal at his mercy, however, Pramod’s brilliant reflexes again came to the Aircraftmen’s rescue.

“We made some basic errors today. We shouldn’t have been caught offside so many times. But I think overall, it was a good game and a draw was the right result,” Trevor Morgan, East Bengal coach said.

HASC started to grow into the game from that point with James Singh, especially, influential running the game from midfield.  Xavier was the tormentor-in-chief of the East Bengal defence, having three efforts well kept out by goalkeeper Sandip Nandy, while J Murali and RC Prakash also saw their long-range efforts thwarted by the impressive custodian.

East Bengal got the opener via a counter attack. Baljit Sahni sprinted down the right and crossed the ball on a plate for Ravinder to tap in from three yards out in the 76th minute.

Xavier got the Bangalore side back to level terms six minutes later though. After getting the ball on the right, Xavier cut in to his left-foot and smashed a wicked curler into the top right corner in the 82nd minute ensuring HASC left their last home game with their heads held high.


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