Barasat (WB): A sloppy East Bengal squandered a fine lead through Ashutosh Mehta's late goal and settled for a 2-2 draw against Mumbai FC to see their I-League title hopes get a jolt at the Vidyasagar Krirangan here yesterday.
Trailing by a Steven Dias goal in the 15th minute, East Bengal produced a turnaround with strikes from Ranty Martins (25th) and Bernard Mendy (59th). But their defense was caught napping with Mumbai FC scoring one against the run of play in the 77th minute when Mehta sneaked behind the left with a freeheader to beat
goalkeeper Luis Barreto.
With defending champions and table leaders Mohun Bagan (26) and third-placed East Bengal (24) dropping points from their respective matches, it would now brighten the hopes of 2013-14 champions Bengaluru FC who are second with 25 points and will face qualifiers DSK Shivajians in Pune today.
Mumbai FC started brilliantly but luck deserted them in the 13th minute when Dias' 20-yard freekick hit the woodwork as they also failed to score from the rebound. But Mumbai FC had their way minutes later when East Bengal conceded a freekick with a foul from Barreto as Dias rolled back the years with a brilliant freekick that curled over the wall into the far left corner.
With East Bengal going down, Sanju Pradhan and Ranty combined well to find the equaliser when the former brilliantly set it up from the right before the Nigerian shot with a powerful rightfooter.
Two minutes later, Mendy missed from the shooting range but made amends in the second half after he received the ball from Martins and scored it on the roof of the top corner to bring the crowd on their feet.
Just when it looked East Bengal were all set to go past their arch-rivals Mohun Bagan at the top of the table, Mehta brought on the equaliser with their defence caught napping.
With former champions Bengaluru FC (away), Sporting Clube de Goa (home) and Shillong Lajong FC (away) waiting in the line, it will now need a miracle for the red and gold to emerge winners.