East Bengal managed a late goal to hold Hong Kong’s Kitchee SC to a 1-1 draw in a second round Group F match of the AFC Cup here on Tuesday. Kitchee went ahead in the first half through its Spanish striker Juan Belencoso before East Bengal’s Nigerian attacker Ranti Martins equalised late in the second half.
Kitchee showed better organisation than the host in the first half and translated the advantage into a lead. East Bengal made a good start and could well have got the lead but for the sluggishness of Ranti Martins. The Nigerian striker had the closest look at the Kitchee goal in the sixth minute, when he was reached by a cross from East Bengal’s right-winger, Shylo Malswamtluanga.
Having only the opposition goalkeeper Wang Zhenpeng at his mercy, the Nigerian came up with a tardy response hitting the onrushing custodian of Kitchee. This slowed down the ball before Kitchee captain, Lo Kwan Yee, cleared from the line to avert danger.
Making good use of the flanks, the Kitchee midfield worked relentlessly to activate its two tall Spanish strikers — Belencoso and Jorge Paramo (Jordi). Both Jordi and Belencoso saw their first attempts — in the 19th and 25th minutes — cut off by the East Bengal defence, before the latter tasted success with his second effort at the half-hour mark. Jordi set up Belencoso with a back-centre and the latter made no mistake with his header (1-0).
East Bengal woke up from its slumber after the interval and tried some good attacking combinations to test the Kitchee defence. But, the visitor took over the reins of the offensive once again and almost fetched the second goal but for the crosspiece which blocked Jordi’s 60th-minute pile-driver. East Bengal found the equaliser through Martins, who got in the right place to make the most of an assist from compatriot Dudu Omagbemi (1-1). East Bengal could well have snatched a win but Martins saw his 86th minute header on a Raju Gaekwad throw cleared off the line by Kitchee captain Yee.
The result: East Bengal 1 (Ranti Martins 74th) drew with Kitchee SC 1 (Juan Belencoso 30).
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