Calcutta: Kingfisher East Bengal’s unbeaten run in the I-League finally came to an end when Prayag United Sports Club defeated them 1-0 at the Salt Lake Stadium, here, on Sunday. Ranty Martins scored the all-important goal in the 75th minute. The win gave United coach Eelco Schattorie something to smile about as the Dutchman was under fire after his team’s none-too-impressive showing in the last few matches.
For East Bengal, it was their second loss in as many matches even though the defeat against Aryan was in the CFL Premier Division. Coach Trevor James Morgan, however, was not worried. “This is not the end of the world,” he said at the post-match conference.
United were the deserving winners. They showed more intent in the attack and were very organised in the defence. With Carlos Hernandez taking a more expressive role and Ranty always falling back till the centre-half, East Bengal pivot Mehtab Hussain was apprehensive of moving up more often. This was something East Bengal are not used to. And it had a telling effect on the match. Also, the two United lateral backs — Deepak Mondal and Dhanarajan — were brilliant on the day and that made life miserable for Ishfaq Ahmed and Harmonjyot Khabra.
“Our defence was very compact today… And Carlos is also working hard. He is an exceptionally gifted player,” Schattorie said.
Ranty could have got one early in the first half but his brilliant long-ranger was fisted away by East Bengal goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. Ranty, in fact, was brought down by Arnab Mondal in the 22nd minute inside the penalty box, but surprisingly referee Santhosh Kumar instead of awarding a penalty booked the Nigerian for diving.
East Bengal also got on as early as in the fifth minute but Ishfaq failed to beat Subrata Paul from close. Paul had a good day in office. Later on, he timed his rush-out well to deny Robin Singh and then dived to his right palming away substitute Lalrindika Ralte’s prompt 22-yard volley.
East Bengal frailties dealing with set-pieces was glaring time and again. Every time, Lalkamal Bhowmick floated in a corner, the likes of Uga Okpara, Khabra and Mondal panicked. Once Bello Razzaq failed to make most of a free header.
Bello failed but Ranty is someone who doesn’t let go such dole-outs. A perfect Lalkamal corner and as usual Uga’s mind was somewhere else. Ranty came out of nowhere and his brilliant header hit the back of the net. Surprisingly even Gurpreet, who could have fisted the ball away, reacted only after the ball whizzed past him.
“We will come back stronger… We are a mentally strong team. In football, winning and losing are part of the game,” Ishfaq said at the post-match conference. True but one hopes this is just a minor blip and will not become a regular feature.
Prayag United: Subrata Paul, Deepak Mondal, Bello Rasaq, Gouramangi Singh, Dhanachandra Singh, Lalkamal Bhowmick, K.Asif (Anupam Sarkar 84), Carlos Hernandez, C.K.Vineeth (Ravinder Singh 58), Shankar Oraon (Mohammed Rafique 81), Ranty Martins.
East Bengal: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Naoba Singh (Alvito D’Cunha 90+2), Uga Okpara, Arnab Mondal, Saumik Dey, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Mehtab Hossain, Penn Orji, Ishfaq Ahmed (Lalrindika Ralte 79), Chidi Edeh, Manandeep Singh (Robin Singh 63).
Referee - M.B.Santosh Kumar.
MoM: Ranti Martins (Prayag United)