| Douglas da Silva ‘beats’ teammate Mike Okoro to a header in East Bengal’s clash with Island FC on Wednesday. The ball, however, missed the target narrowly. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: East Bengal beat Island FC of the Maldives 3-0 in their AFC Cup group E league match at the Salt Lake Stadium this afternoon. With this victory, East Bengal remain atop the group with 12 points and as of now need just another draw to ensure a quarter final berth. The overall score (of two legs) is 5-1, in East Bengal’s favour.
Prosaic as the above is, was the match. Devoid of imagination, and hardly pleasing to the eye, it was overall the cause-effect situation expected by the Calcutta team and executed as such. A win was needed and achieved.
The day’s goals were all by the team’s foreigners, starting with Douglas da Silva in the ninth minute, followed up by Cristiano Junior in the 36th, and rounded off by Mike Okoro, five minutes from time.
That apart, there were a number of misses by the home team, and a couple of chances messed up by Island.
East Bengal started in attack mode, pushing up the wings and homing onto the target. At the goalmouth, though, there remained a good deal of chaos. The chaos resulted, fortunately, in a free-kick on top of the box to the right. Douglas’ left-foot instep lift swerved smoothly over the ‘wall’ and around the reach of goalkeeper Mohamed Iqbal who did not even react. The ball was quickly in the netting.
Three minutes later Bhaichung Bhutia failed to head in a Douglas centre to the goalmouth. That was a couple of minutes before Ismail Mohamed of Island tapered off a counter-attack with a pull into the defence zone. The East Bengal defence looked too slow and unresponsive. Goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee was ahead of his charge, but Ismail’s left-footed grounder was an inch off the post.
In the 27th minute, East Bengal were again in the attack. Dipankar Roy’s free-kick from the right travelled to the goalmouth and Okoro rose for a sharp header. The ball, though, took the crosspiece and came back into play.
Island were making the best of a lax East Bengal defence. In the 30th minute Ismail suddenly sprinted up the right and as he cut in, centred to Seydou Dialoo, the only foreigner in the team. Seydou punted ahead, but Sangram had advanced, and the ball took his person before ballooning over the bar.
Okoro missed another in the 32nd minute and things were in a bit of a mess. Then, in the 36th minute, Shylo Malsawmtluanga moved into the deep end of the rival box and centred to the goalmouth. Junior quickly converted the offer.
There was distinguishable deceleration in the second half. A lot of square passes ensued as East Bengal played to waste time and conserve energy. In the process Island did try a throwback, in the 68th minute. Ahmed Sunain (he was the only player to have scored versus East Bengal in the away match) burst into the rival box and sent an excellent centre across the goalline. It was left to Ilyas Ibrahim to just get his foot to the ball. Ibrahim failed.
It sparked off a revival charge for East Bengal and with five minutes to go for the long whistle Malsawmtluanga’s free-kick from the left reached the goalmouth. Douglas and Okoro jumped, and the ball took Okoro’s neck and moved in, a defender kicked it out, but the ball had already crossed the goalline.
EAST BENGAL: Sangram Mukherjee, Sur Kumar Singh, S. Roy Chowdhury (Dipak Mondal, 35), M. Suresh, Douglas da Silva, Shylo Malsawmtluanga, Mike Okoro, Debjit Ghosh, Dipankar Roy (Alvito D’Cunha, 69), Bhaichung Bhutia, Christiano Junior (K. Kulothungan, 86).
ISLAND FC: Mohamed Iqbal, Shamweel Qusim, Mohamed Jameel, Mohamed Arif (Fareed Mohamed, 51), Ashraf Luthfee, Ali Umar (Ahmed Sunain, 70), Ahmed Shafiu, Seydou Dialloo (Ilyas Ibrahim, 46), Ismail Mohamed, Ahmed Jazeel.
Referee: Taib Hussein (Bangladesh).