| Salgaocar defender Khalemba Meeteis (left) boot lands straight on East Bengal striker Tolgay Ozebes face during an I-League match, at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Wednesday. A Telegraph picture |
Calcutta: The East Bengal juggernaut continues to roll. The red and gold brigade recorded their fifth straight win in the ongoing I-League and dislodged Salgaocar from the leaders spot with a 1-0 win over the Goan outfit at the Salt Lake Stadium, here, on Wednesday.
In-form striker Tolgay Ozebe scored the all-important goal at the hour mark. With this win, Trevor Morgans men have 15 points and even though these are early days, East Bengal look to be the favourites to win the title. Yes, the Penn Orjis and Mehtab Hossains are in rampaging form!
On Wednesday, East Bengal could have won by a handsome margin but, somehow, failed to find the net more than once. Robin Singh, Penn and substitute Budhiram Tudu missed easy chances and, early in the first half, Mehtabs long-ranger was acrobatically saved by Salgaocar goalkeeper Karanjit Singh.
I thought it was a goal. It would have been a memorable week for me had the ball hit the back of the net, Mehtab, who became a father, on Monday, said after the match.
Mehtab, however, was in the thick of the things when the winner came. His long punt from the centre of the park found Robin inside the box. The Tata Football Academy blue played it to friend and roommate Tolgay, who obliged with a prompt right-footer. Surprisingly, the Salgaocar defence didnt react when Robin received the ball. In fact, Robin had plenty of time when he played the pass.
To be fair, Salgaocar, before the change of ends pressed hard for the lead. Veteran Yusif Yakubu constantly probed the East Bengal defence, while Ryuji Sueoka kept the defenders busy with his movement infront of the rival backfour. The speedy duo of Antony Barbosa and Gilbert Oliveira made a few searing runs down the flanks.
Olivera once got past his marker and sent a delivery inside the East Bengal box where Sueoka could have done better with the free header. East Bengal goalkeeper Sandip Nandy made no mistake as he dived to his left to gather the ball.
Yakubu looked a pale shadow of himself as the match wore on and it was becoming clearer that age has caught up with the Ghanaian striker.
The two East Bengal central defenders — Uga Okpara and Sunil Kumar — had a relatively easy day in office, on Wednesday. Sunil, in particular, looked impressive and even though Okpara got the man of the match award, it wouldnt have been surprising had Sunil bagged it.
Hoping for something miraculous to happen, Salgaocar coach Karim Bencharifa introduced Ekene Ikenwa in place of Sueoka. The African import, who was with East Bengal till the other day, failed to do anything special.
The East Bengal defence has looked rock solid and five matches without conceding a goal conveys the point. Yes, our defence is now very compact. And its improving with every match. Few will disagree with captain Saumik Dey.
East Bengal: Sandip Nandy; Naoba Singh, Oga Okpara, Sunil Kumar, Saumik Dey (Ravinder Singh 82), Sanju Pradhan, Penn Orji, Mehtab Hossain, Sushant Mathew, Tolgay Ozebe (Budhiram Tudu 88), Robin Singh.
Salgaocar: Karamjit Singh, Jaspal Parmar, Khalemba Meetei, Luciano Sabrosa, Syed Farid (Khangebam Singh 87), Anthony Barbosa, Tomba Singh, Rocus Lamare, Gilbert Oliviera (Francus Fernandes 72), Yusif Yakubu, Ryuji Sueoka (Ekene Ikenwa 76).
Referee: CR Srikrishna
Man of the Match: Uga Okpara