The Red and Gold Brigade are now winless in four games in the Indian top-flight this season.

SC East Bengal extended their winless run to four games this season as they played out a goalless draw against Chennaiyin FC on Friday. The draw helped Manuel Diaz’s side register their second point in the standings, but kept them at the ninth spot. Chennaiyin FC, on the other, leapfrogged Mumbai City and Odisha FC to top the table with seven points. Although still winless, the goalless draw will be a huge boost for the Red and Gold Brigade, who conceded nine goals in their previous two games.

Chennaiyin FC enjoyed more glances in the opposition territory. On the other hand, SC East Bengal looked like a better unit than in previous games and showed defensive solidity to grab their first clean sheet of the season. Manuel Diaz also looked happy with the draw and lauded his team for displaying defensive improvement.

Md. Rafique’s injury

Mohammed Rafique was excellent in the midfield against Chennaiyin FC. He matched Jacques Maghoma’s tally of playing the most matches for SC East Bengal in the Indian Super League. Overall, he has now played 104 matches for the club, registering 10 goals.

He struggled with an injury in the second half and was substituted late in the game with Sourav Das replacing him. The head coach was quizzed regarding the injury when he revealed he’s hoping that it’s just fatigue for the midfielder.

“Maybe only he’s (Rafique) tired. He played the whole match and we hope only it’s the tired muscles,” Diaz quipped.

No wins in four consecutive games

Manuel Diaz’s side are yet to win their first game in the ongoing ISL season. In fact, their last win the ISL came against Jamshedpur on February 7 last season. Since then, the Red and Gold Brigade have played eight games across two seasons and are yet to taste victory.

“Today our goalless draw is very important. Also, Chennaiyin had chances (to score), but we held on. It’s a good base for improving our level,” Manuel Diaz remarked.

Watch: SC East Bengal coach Manuel Diaz reacts after his side’s goalless draw against Chennaiyin FC

Performance of Hira Mondal and Daniel Chima Chukwu

Hira Mondal was impressive at the left-back position and stopped Lallianzuala Chhangte in his tracks. Mondal also made some crucial tackles and contributed majorly to the goalless draw. The 25-year-old also bagged the Man of the Match award on Friday night.

Apart from Hira Mondal, Nigerian forward Daniel Chima Chukwu was also excellent leading the lines for SC East Bengal. He displayed trickery, succeeded in playing with defenders and could have scored a winner in the second half.

“They have played well, but they must do better things,” the Spaniard echoed regarding Hira Mondal and Daniel Chima Chukwu’s performance.

Motivation after loss against Odisha FC

The heavy defeat to Odisha FC could have worked as a demoralizing factor for the team. But SC East Bengal showed resilience in defence against Chennaiyin and completed the turn-around with a clean-sheet.

“In the last match we did a lot of mistakes and they (players) want to improve their level,” Diaz informed.

Winning possible in the near future?

The SC East Bengal squad may look good on paper but their performance has been underwhelming at best. The team have also been handed a number of drawbacks. They are on a four-match winless run in the league this season and are one of only four teams in the league to not win a match in ISL 2021-22.

“In the second match (Kolkata Derby), we didn’t have an opportunity. In the other matches, we had chances. Against Odisha FC, we lost the match in twelve minutes, in three set-pieces. We did big mistakes. Today, Chennaiyin FC had opportunities, but our team also had opportunities to win the match,” the 53-year-old tactician opined.

After earning their second point in the league, the team will be looking forward to start winning matches. A victory at this stage will surely enhance the performance of the players. The team needs to bring back the winning mentality in order to cope up with their opponents in the upcoming fixtures.

“It’s our target to win a match. The club also knows these thoughts and respects our objectives. We hope we will win a match soon,” Diaz signed off.

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