| Armando Colaco and Seiminlen Doungel |
Calcutta: Seiminlen Doungel has scored seven goals in the season so far. But the most important one came on Saturday, which enabled East Bengal to not only win the away I-League match against Pune FC, but also keep the red-and-gold brigade in the title hunt.
Anthony D’Souza had put the home side into the lead in the first half. Edeh Chidi found the equaliser in the 72nd minute before Seiminlen scored the all-important goal in the 75th minute to guide East Bengal to a 2-1 win at the Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune, on Saturday.
The win takes East Bengal to 40 points from 23 matches and they are one point adrift of leaders Bengaluru FC. Had East Bengal lost to Pune FC, their title hopes would have surely vapourised. Even a draw would have more or less ended their hopes.
Instead, Saturday’s victory will not only bolster East Bengal’s chances but also boost their confidence ahead of their last match against United SC on April 28.
East Bengal’s win will also put the pressure back on Bengaluru FC, who have two away matches remaining.
While East Bengal played some beautiful football in the second half, Pune FC paid the price for failing to make best use of their chances.
The match began with Colaco's men dominating the proceedings and enjoying maximum possession. The hosts looked dangerous in patches and were unable to make a mark.
Pune FC's Gurjinder Kumar got a good chance in the 11th minute but his shot flew over the crossbar. Soon after, East Bengal's Lalrindika Ralte too shot over the bar in the 21st minute.
The goal tally would have been higher as East Bengal lost some opportunities that came their way. In the 22nd minute, some good work by Pune FC custodian Amrinder Singh denied East Bengal a chance to take the lead.
Pune FC had a goal scoring opportunity in the 29th minute. Douhou Pierre's shot landed straight at T. Haokip's feet, but he failed to control the ball and his shot went wide.
The deadlock was broken in the 39th minute eventually. Riga Mustafa sent the ball for Thorat who passed it back to the playmaker.
Riga passed it for Haokip, who realising that the ball was moving away from him, got the faintest of touches for Anthony D'Souza who did well to place it home.
Leading by a goal and egged on by the crowd, Pune FC tried hard to extend the lead. East Bengal defenders needed to stay calm and composed. And they did show a lot of character as they kept the Pune strikers at bay.
Colaco's men scored the equaliser in the 72nd minute through Chidi when he made no mistake in slotting the ball home. Cavin Lobo played the ball for Ryuji Sueoka who made an intelligent run inside the box catching the Pune FC defence unawares. His first time cross saw Chidi get the better of Ralte at the far post and slot it home to make it 1-1.
Three minutes later, it was substitute Seiminlen Doungel who headed from inside the six-yard box with Angus being at fault. Robert played the ball to Sueoka and the Japanese's cross was met by a sublime header of Doungel which gave goalkeeper Amrinder little chance to affect a save.