|Ryuji Sueoka in an aerial tussle with Sporting Clube de Goa’s Gonzalo Neila,
at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Sunday. A Telegraph picture
Calcutta: Kingfisher East Bengal, for the first time, have finally earned themselves a place among the top-four of the I-League standings.
Riding strikes from Baljit Singh Sahni and Lalrindika Ralte, Armando Colaco’s men carved out a 2-1 victory over Sporting Clube de Goa — their first win over the Goans in almost two years — on Sunday, at the Salt Lake Stadium, to move on to the fourth position with 31 points.
Importantly, full points from this game provided East Bengal with some temporary relief, keeping their hopes of regaining the I-League afloat.
That said, East Bengal still trail Bengaluru FC by another seven points, which only implies they need to put in a string of wins in order to reduce the deficit with the tabletoppers.
As of now, East Bengal have followed up their win in the ongoing I-League with either a draw or defeat, something that remains as one of their biggest concerns.
On the other hand, Sporting Clube’s chances of winning the title look as good as over. Their coach Oscar Bruzon, on match-eve, had cited the example of Spain’s famous bullfighting, indicating that his players were ready to counter attack whenever East Bengal were on the offensive.
Forget being like charging bulls, the visitors were hardly able to put any pressure on the rival defence, barring the last few minutes.
It was only because East Bengal defenders panicked and couldn’t clear the ball that Beevan D’Mello pulled one back for Sporting Clube moments before the final whistle.
However, there were a couple of occasions in the first half when Sporting Clube came close to scoring.
Sloppy work from Arnab Mondal had Boima Karpeh with an opportunity, only for the latter to shoot it wide, early in the 14 th minute.
Later in the session, Boima centred one for Rowllin Borges, whose right-footer went inches over the horizontal.
Things weren’t looking very good for the hosts during that phase of the match. Colaco then replaced the struggling Cavin Lobo with Baljit and the move paid off.
Seconds before the break, Joaquim sent one long ball for Ralte, who sprinted down the left and squared it for an advancing Baljit.
Baljit was smart enough to slot the ball home, giving goalie Melroy Fernandes absolutely no chance.
Thereafter, East Bengal gradually gained control of the proceedings and doubled their lead 20 minutes into the second half.
Ryuji Sueoka, who otherwise had a quiet game, set one up for Ralte who unleashed a left-footer that went in off a deflection.
The margin could certainly have been bigger had Baljit and Ralte not squandered sitters. For the moment, though, East Bengal won’t mind them.
East Bengal: Abhra Mondal, Naoba Singh, Raju Gaikwad, Arnab Mondal, Robert Lalthlamuana, Harmanjyot Singh Khabra; Joaquim Abranches, Cavin Lobo (Baljit Singh Sahni, 38; Seiminlen Doungel, 90+3), Lalrindika Ralte, Ryuji Sueoka, Edeh Chidi (Gurwinder Singh, 88)
Sporting Clube de Goa: Melroy Fernandes, Keenan Almeida, Gonzalo Neila, Chandrashekar Chinta, Jovel Martins; Cajetan Fernandes (Velito Cruz, 80), Kalu Ogba, Pratesh Shirodkar (Beevan D’Mello, 61), Joseph Pereira (Royston D’Souza, 61); Rowllin Borges, Boima Karpeh
Referee: Umesh Bora
MoM: Arnab Mondal