| James Moga after scoring East Bengal’s second goal, on Tuesday. A Telegraph picture |
Calcutta: Kingfisher East Bengal entered the semi-finals of the IFA Shield in style as they defeated a 10-man United Sports Club 2-0, here, at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Tuesday.
Larindika Ralte and James Moga were on target for East Bengal, who finished on seven points to secure a last four berth as winners of Group I.
Looking unimpressive in the first session, East Bengal were a transformed side after the change of ends. Three minutes into the second half, Ralte’s stunning 20-yard volley put the red-and-gold brigade ahead. Known as someone who is inclined to take long-rangers that find the target more often, it was really surprising to see United SC not closing Ralte down.
Ryuji Sueoka played the ball to Moga who laid it off to Ralte. And the Mizo medio looked up and fired in his trademark volley. It had such power and precision that the United SC goalkeeper had no chance at all.
“Our defence could have done better,” admitted United SC coach Anjan Nath.
Three minutes after the first goal, the real drama unfolded. United SC got a throw-in on the right. And inside the East Bengal box, there was usual pushing and shoving.
Suddenly, Saumik Dey fell on the ground theatrically and Ranty Martins was seen arguing with Robert Lalthlamuana. Out of the blue, referee Rahul D’Sa flashed the red card to Ranty as the contest was as good as over then.
A fuming Ranty continued to argue with the referee and it was only after Eric Brown and Bello Rassaq pacified him that the Nigerian walked down the tunnel.
“It was a bizzare decision. Saumik instigated the whole thing. And if I was shown the red card, why wasn’t the same done with Saumik?” said a peeved Ranty, after the match.
One-man down, United SC still tried to put up some resistance. But East Bengal got their second in the 68th minute.
Edeh Chidi slipped it to Moga and the South Sudanese striker took Anupam Sarkar in his stride before gently lobbed the ball over an onrushing Abhijit Das.
“Goals always gives you the confidence. I dedicate this to my teammates. It’s a collective effort.
“This season hasn’t been going well for my club. We lost the AFC Cup semi-final and fared badly in the Federation Cup. Now we want to win this tournament and that will give confidence for the I-league,” Moga said.
Moga, though, could have got one as early as in the fifth minute. But his 40-yard free-kick was brilliantly parried over by Abhijit.
United SC got a few chances as well, but Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was not in a benevolent mood. He once denied Ranty and saved Brown’s low volley too.
The tall Gurpreet is known as someone never comfortable when it comes to dealing with low shots. But on Tuesday, he did show he is working on it, which is certainly good news for East Bengal.
East Bengal: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu; Abhishek Das, Saumik Dey, Raju Gaikwad, Robert Lalthlamuana, Shylo Malsawmtuluanga (Seiminlen Doungel, 70), Ryuji Sueoka, Subodh Kumar (Harmanjyot Singh Khabra, 87), Lalrindika Ralte, Edeh Chidi, James Moga (Alvito D'Cunha, 83)
United SC: Abhijit Das; Deepak Mondal, Anupam Sarkar, Bello Rassaq, Dhanachandra Singh, Mohammed Rafique (Baldeep Singh, 72), Lalkamal Bhowmick, K. Asif (Rajinder Singh, 84), Snehasish Chakraborty (Tapan Maity, 75), Ranty Martins, Eric Brown
Referee: Rahul D'Sa
MoM: Lalrindika Ralte