| East Bengal striker Mike Okoro (right), who scored twice in the 3-0 win over Port Trust, in action Thursday
Calcutta: East Bengal shook off their three-match win-drought with a cakewalk over Calcutta Port Trust at home on Thursday afternoon. The Super Five lightweights were, in fact, lucky to come away with a 0-3 scoreline rather than something much, much more embarrassing.
East Bengal thus completed their engagements with 30 points from 13 games. Neither Mohun Bagan (22 points) nor Mohammedan Sporting (27) can top their tally. But it’s still not certain whether East Bengal will have to feature in a play-off to identify the champions.
Mohun Bagan can force a play-off if they win both their remaining fixtures — against Tollygunge Agragami on September 25 and Mohammedan Sporting on September 28. Mohammedan Sporting are also in contention only have to hold Mohun Bagan to qualify for a play-off with East Bengal.
Bolstered by the return of Mike Okoro and Douglas D’Souza, East Bengal piled on the pressure from the outset. Okoro fired the opener after 24 minutes. After many East Bengal misses, the lively Nigerian doubled the lead 33 minutes into the second session. Second-half substitute Alvito D’Cunha made it 3-0 seven minutes from full time.
Okoro now has a dozen goals in his kitty and it will take some doing for the likes of Rahim Nabi and Dipendu Biswas to displace him from the top.
Having lost to Mohun Bagan the other day following stalemates with Mohammedan Sporting and Tollygunge Agragami, Subhas Bhowmick’s men were desperate to get back to winning ways. Okoro and Malswamtluanga set the pace early on before Tushar Rakshit got into his game-making groove to split the Port defence time and again.
A fine Okoro header off a Malswamtluanga cross saw Port custodian Sandip Guha bring off a spectacular save. Another penetrative Malswamtluanga centre was intercepted by Pinaki Datta in the nick of time.
The breakthrough came with Tushar coming into his own. His measured through, bisecting the central defenders, found Okoro inside the penalty box. The Nigerian’s angular right-footer went in off the outstretched hands of the ’keeper.
Tushar masterminded countless such incisive forays but just one got converted. Tushar set up Surya Bikash Chakraborty with a neat square pass and the overlapping wing-back did his bit by crossing the ball for Okoro to tap in unchallenged.
The third goal was Dipankar Roy’s creation. Having replaced Tushar after 79 minutes, the little medio laid the ball in D’Cunha’s path from the centre line. D’Cunha sprinted a good 30 yards, drew the ’keeper out and pushed the ball into the net.
Port didn’t stretch the East Bengal defence even once. Sanjit Saha caught the eye but Port need at least three-four workhorses like him to make a mark.
East Bengal: Arpan Dey; Surya Bikash Chakraborty, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, M. Suresh, Raju Singh, Tushar Rakshit (Dipankar Roy, 79), Douglas D’Souza, Anit Ghosh, Malswamtluanga, Subhash Chakraborty (Alvito D’Cunha, 66), Mike Okoro (Trijit Das, 89).
Calcutta Port Trust: Sandip Guha, Kajal Das, Rabi Karmakar, Srimanta Das (Bijay Pal, 76), Pinaki Datta, Sanjit Saha, Soumen Karmakar, Bastab Roy (Pranit Dey, 77), Amit Roy, Amar Pyne, Pradip Indu (Santanu Chakraborty, 73).
Referee: Debasish Mitra