Calcutta: Deep into injury time, in the 18th–round I-League match against Prayag United Sports Club, Kingfisher East Bengal got a corner. Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu waved to coach Trevor James Morgan. And the Englishman nodded.
The young goalkeeper raced to the Prayag penalty box helping the team to find the goal that kept eluding the red-and-gold brigade throughout the match.
The corner was cleared by the Prayag defence without any difficulty and the ball fell onto Kayne Vincents feet. With a swift turn he got past Sanju Pradhan and then he ran.
And boy it would remain one of his lifes most memorable runs. He ran for about 90 yards with only a retreating Soumik Dey and an empty goal in front of him.
Gurpreet, who realised his foolishness, albeit a trifle late, was also trying to cover lost ground. But Kayne was unflinched and never lost the sight of the goal. Some yards into the 16-yard box, he volleyed it home. The ball grazed past Soumiks right hand and nestled it into the net.
It was one of the bizarre goals of the National League!
Vincent then made another run… this time in unbridled euphoria. Gurpreet sat on the ground probably trying to rewind those moments of madness and the Uga Okparas were simply shell-shocked. And from the Salt Lake Stadium, came the choicest of expletives and water bottles.
With this 1-0 victory Prayag have now 32 points from 18 matches, while East Bengal remained on 34 from 18. The loss might have dealt a debilitating blow to Morgans dream of winning the I-League.
Next up is Mohun Bagan on Saturday and given East Bengals notoriously poor defending and equally atrocious rate of conversion in front of the goal, the Okolie Odafes are definitely fancying their chances.
United Sports Club on Tuesday showed if you stick to the plan you can achieve anything. They took the field without five of their regulars out of which two were ruled out on the eve of the match. Denson Devadas and Arnab Mondal, Income Taxs new recruits, were busy with an office match. But that did not deter coach Shankar Sen and his band of bravehearts.
They sat back and defended with lot of confidence. The tackles were clean and the clearances were long.
Deepak Mondal and Bello Rasaq were exceptional in the defence; Mohammed Rafique and Sankar Oraon did not yield an inch in the midfield; the two frontliners — Vincent and Joshimar —did a lot of running which kept the East Bengal defence on the tenterhooks.
In a nutshell, it was a team effort which saw them leaving the pitch with beaming faces.
East Bengal got enough chances. But a lack of a conventional No. 9 hurt them badly. Tolgay Ozebe had a relatively good day in office but you cannot expect the Australian to bail out the team day in and day out.
He got chances. Once a superb build-up saw him infront of the goal, but Abihjit Mondal was equal to the task and dived on his right to gather the header. And then he held onto the ball for a little long and Rasaq averted the danger.
As seconds ticked away, Morgan brought in Robin Singh and Edmilson. But the United defence stood firm and then in injury-time Gurpreet did the unthinkable.
It was a bungle the promising goalkeeper wont forget for a long time.
Prayag United SC: Abhijit Mondal; Deepak Mondal, Sukhen Dey, Bello Rasaq, Stephen Vincent, James Singh, Mohammed Rafique, Jayanta Sen (Crispin Chetri 51), Sankar Oraon, Kayne Vincent, Joshimar.
East Bengal: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Harmanjyot Singh Khabra, Gurwinder Singh, Uga Okpara, Soumik Dey, Sanju Pradhan, Reisangmi Vashum (Robin Singh 57), Khan Tang Paite, Mehtab Hossain, Penn Orji (Edmilson 73), Tolgay Ozebe.
Referee: Ajit Metei.
Man of the Match: Kayne Vincent.