Kolkata: A late strike from East Bengal's Nigerian forward Ranti Martins earned his side a hard fought 1-1 draw against Kitchee of Hong Kong in a second round Group F match of the AFC Cup here on Tuesday.
It was the visitors who took the lead in the 29th minute of the Salt Lake stadium game as Spanish forward Juan Belencoso headed home a looping ball from the six yard area.
Martins's strike came late into the second half. A flick on header from his Nigerian compatriot Dudu Omagbeni found its way to the former, who squared up the goalkeeper before burying Athe ball into the net.
A sluggish opening half saw both sides getting a few chances. The first opportunity knocked on the doors of the home team as early as the fourth minute when Martins let loose a shot that was cleared off the line by a Kitchee defender.
Almost a replica of the chance came the other way but Kitchee's Spanish forward Jorge Paramo saw his effort deflected wide by a diving East Bengal defender.
Seven minutes later another cross found the other Kitchee forward Belencoso whose header was brilliantly thwarted by a diving Abhijit Mondal.
An otherwise sturdy East Bengal defence was torn open in the 29th minute when the Spanish striker duo combined well, with Paramo sending a ball from the edge of the six yard area for Belencoso to net a header.
After the breather, the visitors stepped up the pressure, but the red and gold backline stood firm.
The hosts muffed up a chance when Joaquim Abranches- filling in the shoes for Lalrindika Ralte in the left flank - sent a hopeful ball into the box but none of the East Bengal forwards could connect a header.
At the hour mark, it was Paramo again who broke open the locals' defence only to find his thunderous left-footed volley rattle the cross bar.
Belencoso had his chance to score a brace, but as he scampered through, Mondal came rushing off his line to block the striker's shot.
In the 75 minute it was Martins who restored parity for East Bengal after a Dudu header fell in the way of the Nigerian who put the ball into the net.
With the stalemate, East Bengal remain third in Group A, while Kitchee go atop the standings having won one and drawn the other.