| Bhaichung Bhutia scored a magical goal, East Bengalís third, on Friday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Conditions were far from ideal, but that didnít deter East Bengal from making a roaring start in the CFL Super Division Friday. Playing under steady drizzle, which gradually turned the turf into a pool of mud, the defending champions trounced Eastern Railway 4-1.
Surkumar Singh opened the scoring, seconds after the start, and also got the fourth in the 81st minute. Debjit Ghosh hit the second in the 38th before Bhaichung Bhutia dispelled doubts over his fitness with an acrobatic effort three minutes later. Henry Odogo got the consolation goal for the railwaymen 17 minutes after the breather.
If the saying morning shows the day is taken seriously, East Bengalís opening show should come as a strong warning for rivals. It was not spectacular, but strong and steady. Some surprise set-piece moves originating from either side of the midfield were on display, as well as some distinct indications of how tough the defence is going to be. Also, the cohesion seen in midfield build-ups suggested the players have been training under watchful eyes.
Though it is too early to judge, it seems that hiring South African physical trainer Kevin Jackson is yielding results. Apart from a few casual minutes after the third goal, East Bengal operated at good pace, even on the slippery and heavy turf. The start couldnít have been better. The ball travelled to the left after the kick-off and after touches from Sashthi Duley and Bhutia, came to Surkumar towards the right. The Manipuri strongmanís shot took a wicked deflection off Nilanjan Guha and went in past the helpless goalkeeper.
Not that Eastern Railway didnít try to hit back, but the sheer intensity of East Bengalís raids was bound to bear fruit. Subhas Chakraborty had changed flanks to move to the right and got a tap-on from Surkumar before floating in a left-footer which Debjit gleefully converted.
Then came the moment about 5,000 fans had braved the rain for. It was a high and looping cross from the left by Duley that railway defenders thought Bhutia would not reach and stayed put. The striker ran in, jumped and showed amazing flexibility to meet the ball mid-air and it was in. That apart, Bhutia looked hungry and fit.
East Bengal: Sandip Nandy; Dipak Mondal, Mahesh Gawli, Suley Musah; Sashthi Duley, Subhas Chakraborty (Chandan Das, 67), Debjit Ghosh, Surkumar Singh, Shylo Malsawmtluanga (Sujoy Dutta, 85); Raman Vijayan (Bijen Singh, 53), Bhaichung Bhutia.
Eastern Railway: Tapan Karmakar; Arunava Sarkar, Nilanjan Guha, Shantanu Bit (Debdas Sen, 46), Ranjit Sardar (Sanchit Dutta Bhowmick, 44); Farid Ali Mollah, Kuntal Biswas, Abhijit Mondal, Saikat Mondal (Binoy Saha, 40); Henry Odogo, Monojit Sarkar.
Referee: Arup Chakraborty.