| An Indian Bank defender tries to stop East Bengal’s Mike Okoro in their National League match at the Salt Lake Stadium Sunday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: East Bengal are back in business. After a couple of hiccups, the red-and-gold brigade gave a professional display to outplay lowly Indian Bank 3-0 in a one-sided game at the Salt Lake Stadium Sunday. The win took the city giants on 46 points, and the game against Vasco at the Salt Lake Stadium on April 25 becomes pivotal to the fate of the league.
Indian Bank, a team built on a budget of Rs 18 lakh, hardly looked the side that had snatched points from the city giants in the first leg. East Bengal played a good passing game in the middle-third and it seemed a matter of time for them to break through. Mike Okoro, playing upfront, was the stand-out man, often coming down and shuffling positions, making life difficult for the Chennai defenders.
The bankmen were also hurt by the lack of a defensive midfielder who could act as a screen to the defenders. So, there was hardly any blocking and with Malsawmtluanga and Shashthi Duley joining the attack along the wings, the attack looked really potent in the initial stages.
Also, Chandan Das, playing central midfielder, took a lot of workload and essayed some inviting balls for the attackers.
The first goal, in the 16th minute was a product of such combination play. Chandan’s high ball from the midfield was excellently trapped by Okoro who, shrugging off his marker S. Sudhakar, took a powerful right-footer that beat the bank goalie all ends up.
The Nigerian came close to doubling the lead in the 27th minute when he cut in from the left beating a couple of defenders, but his shot was blocked by Netto.
However, the initial burst seemed to take too much out of East Bengal and the game got stuck in the midfield. The bankmen too, woefully lacked any sting in the attack and everyone around seemed more interested about the result of the game in Margao between Vasco and ITI. Even, a piece of wrong information that Vasco have been held, sparked off celebrations in the stands.
However, as the correct news of Vasco pumping in five came in, East Bengal also looked keen to increase the margin. The second goal was scored following a free-kick just outside the penalty box. After Venkatesh was brought down, Douglas took a curling left-footer that went past Netto’s hands.
East Bengal almost made it 3-0 in the 74th minute when Shasthi’s centre was well met by Venkatesh, but Netto once again came to the rescue.
The title-hunters pulled the shutters down four minutes from close, once again the attackers combining quite superbly. Shashthi’s centre from the left found an unmarked Okoro, and he made no mistake putting the ball past a hapless Netto.
EAST BENGAL: Sangram Mukherjee; Surya Bikash Chakraborty, Suley Musah, Dipak Mondal; M. Suresh, Shashthi Duley (Dipankar Roy, 89), S. Malsawmtluanga, Chandan Das (Tushar Rakshit, 84), Douglas de Silva; Subhash Chakraborty (S. Venkatesh, 32), Mike Okoro.
INDIAN BANK: Sebastian Netto; J. Anandrajan, Anthony Noel, D.C. Nathaniel, V.K. Harish; J. Anandavasan, Mohammed Qaizar (Mohammed Bin Hassan, 90), R. Ravibabu; K.G. Joseph, Stanley Festus (Basheer Ahmed, 80).
Referee: P.K. Bose (Madhya Pradesh)