East Bengal Club and Chonburi FC played out a thrilling 4-4 draw in their opening 2011 AFC Cup Group H match at the floodlit Saltlake Stadium in Kolkata. The 10,000 plus spectators will have loved the game which was never ever boring with twists and turns in favour of both sides. But the two coaches surely will not be happy with the mistakes and the four goals conceded.
East Bengal made an aggressive start and with Robin Singh putting pressure on the Chonburi keeper strike partner Tolgay Ozbey had an open goal to score into though from a difficult angle in the 8th minute. Tolgay doubled the lead in the 22nd minute with the ball going in off a deflection and it looked as if East Bengal would cruse through this game, but soon after Tolgay came off due to an injury and Chonburi started to find their feet on the artificial turf plus their passing game. The result was Pipob On-Mo reducing the deficit in the 29th minute before Adul Lahso scoring the equaliser off a brilliant long ranger in the 43rd minute. The break came at the right time for East Bengal one thought as in the later stages of the first half they were totally outplayed.
But after the break Chonburi would continue where they left off and Pipob On-Mo would give them a 3-2 lead in the 47th minute. All seemed over when Ekaphan Inthasen made it 4-2 in the 53rd minute with Chonburi threatening to score more. East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan gambled and brought on Baljit Singh Sahni and Ravinder Singh for Sanju Pradhan and Reisangmi Vashum, the move paid off as these two would score the red-and-gold's goals to equalise. Chonburi became complacent and allowed East Bengal to combine with Baljit reducing the deficit to 3-4 in the 74th minute and suddenly the stadium came to live again. A Thai defender then brought down Robin Singh in the 84th minute and the Sri Lankan referee awarded a penalty to East Bengal, but it took a while with keeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool down injured and one feared that it was too much time for Ravinder to think ahead of taking the penalty. But the youngster cooly slotted home with six minutes to go, but East Bengal were lucky in injury time as a Thai striker missed the chance to score into the open net.
After the game East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan said, "This was a match we could have so easily lost. The point is satisfactory for us. If not for a late comeback, we would have been left with nothing. Chonburi is a much better side than East Bengal and it showed on the field. They adapted to the conditions well."
Chonburi coach Withaya Laohakul was happy with the result, "We lost two points for sure. This was a match we should have won especially after being ahead by two goals in the second session. We lost out as a result of lapses in concentration. We should have been more focussed after taking the two-goal lead but we took it for granted that the match was ours."
But both sides will be happy with the result in the groups other game. Hongkong's South China were held to a one-all draw by Persipura Jayapura from Indonesia. This leaves all teams in Group H with only one point after match day one and all evenly poised.