Vasco: East Bengal's chance to stay in contention for the title race ended after they were held to a 2-2 draw by Dempo FC in the 25th round of the I-League played at Tilak Maidan Stadium here on Saturday.
East Bengal, who led 1-0 at half time, scored through Penn Orji in the 17th minute.
Dempo who were unable to breach the rival defence in the first half found the equaliser through substitute Joy Ferrao in the 48th minute.
Substitute John Menyongar then put Dempo ahead in the 74th minute before Ishfaq Ahmed, also a substitute, restored parity for the East Bengal in the 83rd minute.
East Bengal, who are now out of contention for the title race, remained at third place with 44 points from 24 matches while Dempo, who took their tally to 37 points from 25 matches, remained at fifth place.
East Bengal who needed a win to stay in contention for the title looked a more confident side. They made moves mostly from the right with Sanju Pradhan and Naoba Singh and had the first chance to take the lead but Penn Orji shot wide off the target off a pass from Edeh Chidi in the ninth minute.
However, Orji who got one more opportunity did not disappoint his teammates as he took three rival defenders in his stride before placing the ball past rival keeper Subasish Roychowdhury into the net in the 17th minute.
Dempo who struggled initially gradually found their grooves as they made occasional forays and had a good chance to find the equaliser midway in the first half but Godwin Franco shot wide off the mark.
Unable to break the rival defence, Dempo coach Armando Colaco made a change in the second session bringing in Joy Ferrao in place of Clifford Miranda and the move paid dividend as Ferrao found the equaliser with a header off a free kick taken by Godwin Franco in the 48th minute.
Two minutes later, Dempo suffered a casualty when Peter Carvalho hurt his jaw after he accidentally crashed against the post and was replaced by John Menyongar.
East Bengal then managed to find the net through Edeh Chidi but was declared off-side by referee C Shrikrishna.
Few minutes later Chidi again was in thick of action as he let go a powerful shot which was tipped over by rival keeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury.
After this close shave, Dempo took the lead in the 74th minute when substitute John Menyongar snatched the ball from the rival defender, raced into the box and beat keeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu before finding the net.
However, Dempo joy was short-lived as East Bengal found the equaliser nine minutes later when substitute Ishfaq Ahmed found the net after he was set-up by substitute Andrew Barisic.