Robbie Fowler's SC East Bengal got their first point of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2020-21 season after holding on to a 0-0 draw against Jamshedpur FC, despite playing much of the game with 10 men. Eugeneson Lyngdoh, making his first start of the season, was sent off in the 24th minute following a second yellow for a late challenge on Jamshedpur's Alex de Lima. Owen Coyle's team had a large share of possession, but created relatively few clear chances despite their advantage, and would also finish the game with 10 men themselves as right back Laldinliana Renthlei was sent off for a second yellow in injury time.
Fowler made four changes to the side that lost to NorthEast United, featuring four players making their first starts under the new manager. Goalkeeper Sankar Roy started ahead of Debjit Majumdar, Lyngdoh and Mohammed Rafique started in midfield, and Jeje Lalpekhlua replaced Balwant Singh up front.
The new-look side were second best in the opening exchanges as Jamshedpur made a confident start, with attackers Alex de Lima, William Lalnunfela and Aniket Jadhav all finding spaces out wide and putting in decent crosses for the in-form Nerijus Valskis. Valskis tested the keeper with a superb volley in the first half, while Eze hit the bar from a header during a corner.
While Matti Steinmann and Anthony Pilkington combined well and displayed a few decent dribbles through the first half, SCEB were largely outplayed in the centre of the park by Aitor Monroy and de Lima. Eugeneson looked particularly rusty, and a challenge from behind earned him a booking early on. It got worse for him just four minutes later when another mistimed challenge resulted in a second yellow and subsequent sending off. While the second booking seemed harsh, as he appeared to have got some of the ball, he did catch de Lima high on the follow-through.
East Bengal unsurprisingly switched to a more defensive shape in the second half, as Fowler replaced Jeje with Wahengbam Angousana Luwang to add an extra body in midfield. Jamshedpur pressed their advantage and upped the pressure meanwhile, with in-form Jackichand Singh coming on just after the hour-mark.
De Lima came the closest to putting Owen Coyle's team ahead in the 68th minute, when his vicious volley following a set-piece clipped the crossbar. To SCEB's credit, their narrow defending was effective for the most part, and Jamshedpur struggled to test the keeper despite all their promising build-up play.
In the end, the last-ditch defending combined with some clever hold-up play by Jacques Maghoma and Pilkington was enough to get them their first point following a nightmare start that saw them lose three in three. They will next face Hyderabad on December 15, while Jamshedpur face league leaders Mumbai City FC on December 14.
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