East Bengal FC dropped two points in their Durand Cup 2023 opener after Bangladesh Army scored two late goals to force a share of the spoils in the Group A fixture at the Vivekanand Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Sunday.

Making their debuts for the Red and Golds, midfielder Saul Crespo and forward Javier Siverio both got on the score sheet but late goals from Shahriar Emon and Meraj denied Carles Cuadrat a winning start to his tenure as East Bengal FC boss. 

The late slip comes as a blow for the Red and Gold brigade with the margin for error in the Durand Cup group stage being minimum as only eight sides advance to the next round. 

It will also be a tough pill to swallow ahead of next week’s Kolkata derby against rivals Mohun Bagan Super Giant. 

East Bengal FC were the dominant team from the outset and had a strong first half and it reflected in the scoreline as they took a 2-0 lead into the break thanks to goals from Crespo and Siverio. 

However, the game changed in the second half after Nishu Kumar was sent off in the second half for a second bookable offence. 

It seemed like the ten men of East Bengal FC would hold onto the win but Bangladesh Army dug deep to secure a precious point and keep their hopes alive. 

East Bengal FC will now need to get better of Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the derby next week to enhance their chances of qualification.

Hyderabad FC held

Newly promoted I-League side Delhi FC held last year’s semi-finalists and Hyderabad FC to a 1-1 draw in a Group E fixture of Durand Cup 2023 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Sunday. Himanshu Jangra scored for Delhi FC in the 6th minute while Ramhlunchhunga equalised for Hyderabad FC in the second half.

Both teams struggled to get going in the game because of the conditions as it was raining heavily. Delhi FC seemed to manage the conditions well and as a result, took the lead in the 6th minute of the game. Bhupinder Singh put in a cross from the right wing which was misjudged by HFC goalkeeper Gurmeet Singh. Himanshu Jangra who forced the mistake, poked it into the empty goal giving the side from Delhi the lead. 

Hyderabad FC players who rely on their flair and quick passing found it difficult to create any chances. HFC got their best chance to equalise in the 27th minute through a corner. The ball beat the defence and found Aaren D’Silva who was unmarked at the far post, but he shot wide. Himanshu Jangra forced Gurmeet Singh to make an acrobatic save in the closing stages of the half.

The rain stopped before the start of the second half and conditions became better suited for Hyderabad FC who started to control the game. Mohammed Yasir and Ramhlunchhunga started their pacey runs creating problems for the Delhi defence.

The equaliser came through a corner kick from one such run. Ramhlunchhunga took the corner kick which beat everybody inside the box including Delhi FC goalkeeper Pawan Kumar and found the back of the net. Hyderabad were looking dangerous going forward but Delhi defended resiliently and also were a threat in the counterattacks. They almost stole the game in the final minutes of the game when Himanshu Jangra’s shot just rolled past the post.

Hyderabad FC will face Chennaiyin FC in their next match on August 10 while Delhi FC will face Tribhuvan Army FC, Nepal on August 9. Both matches will be played at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati.