Calcutta: The job is close enough to being done for Kingfisher East Bengal.
James Moga and his substitute Edeh Chidi did the needful as East Bengal pulled off a 2-0 victory over United SC in Sunday’s CFL championship-round tie, here, at the Salt Lake Stadium.
By virtue of this win, East Bengal are on the verge of their fourth successive CFL title, something that should egg them on further for a successful Federation Cup defence.
Technically, East Bengal still require another win, against Kalighat MS on Wednesday, should they lift the trophy. Now, celebrations can begin on Monday itself because if Mohun Bagan lose to Mohammedan Sporting, the remaining matches of the competition will then be rendered inconsequential.
Talking of Sunday’s match, it didn’t carry much significance for United SC who weren’t in contention at all for the title.
Yet, they fielded almost all of their first XI regulars, barring Bello Rasaq (out of station) and the injured Eric Brown, as a tough task awaited Armando Colaco’s men.
But had James Moga not made a hash of sitters early on, East Bengal could well have sealed the game before the break itself.
That said, it was Moga who gave his team the all-important lead in the 13th minute with a 25-yard left-footer, beating rival custodian Abhijit Das all ends up.
Sloppy defending, too, helped Moga as he was allowed ample space for the execution, off Lalrindika Ralte’s final pass. It was an occasion when United SC felt the absence of Bello badly.
United SC, who were denied a goal when referee Biplab Poddar ruled Ranty Martins off-side in the 27th minute, held the upper hand for most parts of the second session.
Deepak Mondal once came perilously close to drawing level midway during the second half, as the equaliser just looked round the corner. The rub of the green, though, was in East Bengal's favour as Deepak’s attempt — off a wonderful long ball from Lalkamal Bhowmick — deflected off goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu only to hit the first post.
However, immediately after Chidi stepped in, he ensured to shut the door on United SC.
Substitute Shylo Malsawmtluanga split open the opposition defence with his charge through the middle before releasing Chidi on the right.
And the Nigerian’s first touch was good enough to roll into the net. There was no way Eelco Schattorie’s side could stage a comeback after the 82nd minute strike.
Of course, Harmanjyot Singh Khabra’s ouster — after his second yellow card for a foul against Hasan Al-Moustapha — towards the end somewhat spoiled the show. But with Kalighat MS being their next opponent, Khabra’s absence shouldn’t matter much.
East Bengal: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Naoba Singh, Raju Gaikwad, Gurwinder Singh, Saumik Dey, Reisangmi Vashum (Shylo Malsawmtluanga, 53), Harmanjyot Singh Khabra, Cavin Lobo (Seiminlen Doungel, 63), Lalrindika Ralte, Ryuji Sueoka, James Moga (Edeh Chidi, 81)
United SC: Abhijit Das, Deepak Mondal, Shaikh Azim, Hasan Al-Moustapha, Dhanachandra Singh (C.K. Vineeth, 80), Souvik Chakrabarti, K. Asif (Jayanta Sen, 63), Lalkamal Bhowmick (Surajit Bose, 71), Tapan Maity, Mohammed Rafique, Ranty Martins
Referee: Biplab Poddar
MoM: Lalkamal Bhowmick