| Dempo goalkeeper Francis Fernandes and defenders Ratan Singh (left) and Jose Luciano thwart East Bengal striker Mike Okoro at Salt Lake Stadium on Monday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta: East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick’s champions’ luck has been the point of discussion for quite some time this season. But on Monday, the maverick coach proved once again that luck alone cannot be credited for his team’s success. Superior tactics also count for a lot.
After all, it was a brilliant change in the second half that brought East Bengal back from a 1-2 deficit to beat Dempo Sports Club Goa 3-2 in their National League match at the Salt Lake Stadium.
The Goans had taken the lead and were well in control of the proceedings. But Bhowmick noticed that Ratan Singh, playing left-back for Dempo, was a bit slow and brought in the nippy Subhas Chakraborty in place of Dipankar Roy. Chakraborty made perfect use of Ratan’s lack of mobility to set up two goals in quick succession that killed off the Goa side.
Even after taking the lead, East Bengal never lost their positive intent and did not give the opposition any chance to come back into the match.
Overall, the game produced some high-quality football with both teams starting off in whirlwind fashion and scoring within the first five minutes.
East Bengal drew first blood, rather inadvertently, when in the fourth minute, Alvito D’Cunha took a free-kick from the left and Aedric Bandana Channa, Dempo’s Sri Lankan recruit, put the ball into his own goal trying to shield Douglas De Silva. Stung, Dempo came back immediately and Raman Vijayan, getting a floater from the left, put the ball past Sandip Nandy.
The Calcutta team lost a chance to regain the lead in the seventh minute, when a superb one-two between Venkatesh and Mike Okoro found the former in the clear, only to have his feeble push well-saved by custodian Francis Fernandes.
Dempo went ahead seven minutes hence, when Bijen Singh’s lob found Channa in the clear and the Lankan’s superb left-footer beat Sandip to the far post.
After the dust settled down, East Bengal started taking possession of the midfield. With D’Cunha playing his natural game with flair and Mike Okoro often falling back, the red-and-gold brigade started looked a settled unit in the middle-third.
The Goans, on the other hand, seemed more intent at guarding their lead. With both Chakraborty and Malswamtluanga not in the first XI, there was not too much of wing-play. Though the city giants controlled the game, they could not break through the defensive organisation of the Goa side.
And Channa, playing as the lone striker, did have quite an impressive game. He looked fast on the counter and even beat Dipak Mondal on the run a couple of times. Dipak, in fact, coming back from an injury, is still not fully fit and did look a bit suspect at times.
In the 39th minute, East Bengal managed a spot-kick, courtesy an Okoro histrionic and a terrible decision by the referee Rizwan-ul-Haq of Delhi. But Chandan Das, who had a horrible day, struck the cross-bar from the spot.
East Bengal squared things up in the 54th minute when a Chakraborty pass found Suley Musah on the left and Okoro tapped his measured centre in.
Ten minutes hence, Chakraborty beat Ratan on the run and sent a measured cross, to be headed in by Okoro. With the win, East Bengal have 27 points from 11 while Dempo have 20.
East Bengal: Sandip Nandy; Suley Musah, Arun Malhotra, Dipak Mondal (S. Malswamtluanga, 88); Douglas de Silva, M. Suresh, S. Venkatesh, Chandan Das (Sashthi Duley, 73), Dipankar Roy (Subhas Chakraborty, 46); Alvito D’Cunha, Mike Okoro.
Dempo: Francis Fernandes; Ratan Singh, Jose Luciano, Stanley Colaco, Melvin Rodrigues; Bijen Singh, Jose Colaco, Mario Soares, Lazarus Fernandes; Raman Vijayan (Andreev Sergey, 74), A.B. Channa.
Referee: Rizwan-ul-Haq (Delhi)