|East Bengal’s Seiminlen Doungel (from left), Abhishek Das and Edeh Chidi with coach
Armando Colaco, at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Monday. A Telegraph picture
Calcutta: East Bengal overcame early jitters to finish on a winning note against United SC and secure the runners-up position in the I-League at the Salt Lake Stadium on Monday.
Second half goals from Abhishek Das, Edeh Chidi and Seiminlen Doungel ensured a 3-0 victory for East Bengal, who finished with 43 points from 24 matches, four behind champions Bengaluru FC.
If the first half was scrappy, with both teams failing to create an opening, an error by United SC goalie Abhijit Das led to the floodgates opening for East Bengal. Armando Colaco’s men, though, were unlucky to be denied a penalty after Chidi was brought down inside the box in the first session.
“Our half-line failed to deliver in the second half… That led to extra pressure on the defence which our players couldn’t counter,” said United SC coach Ananta Ghosh.
The first half dished out soccer as dull as ditch water with the East Bengal forwardline and midfield showing lack of co-ordination. The sapping humidity was also to be blamed for the drab show as coach Colaco pointed out later.
“It’s easy to talk from outside… The humidity was too much. I was drenched sitting on the bench… Imagine the players’ fate… Don’t take away the credit from the players,” said Colaco.
Both teams had a chance to forge ahead within 10 minutes from the start. First it was Ryuji Sueoka whose header was just wide following Cavin Lobo's cross from the right.
United wasted a chance when Adekunle Waheed found Biswajit Biswas on the left with a good cross, but the latter shot over.
United wasted another chance when Eric Brown got past a couple of rival defenders before finding Mohammed Rafique in the open, who shot straight to goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Most of United's moves were built around Waheed and Brown but they hardly got much support in the striking zone.
East Bengal got another chance in the 36th minute when Lalrindika Ralte shot out from close following a Shylo Malswmtluanga cross.
United SC could have taken the lead early in the second half when Lalkamal Bhowmick failed to nod in from handshaking distance.
Five minutes later came the first goal following an innocuous move. Abhishek’s shot 20 yards from the right corner went into the hands of the goalie, who lost balance in an attempt to judge the flight and fell inside the goalline. This was the break East Bengal had been yearning for and they didn’t look back.
The second goal came in the 83rd minute when Chidi covered a good 20 yards alone and placed it to the left of Abhijit. Six minutes later, Chidi was at it again, this time his well measured pass found a unmarked Cavin Lobo.
The cross over the head of a retreating Bello Rasaq found Doungel, who showed immense presence of mind by dodging past the goalie and scoring unchallenged.
East Bengal: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Abhishek Das, Raju Gaekwad, Arnab Mondal, Soumik Dey, S. Malswmtluanga (Joaquim Abranches 60), Cavin Lobo (Safar Sardar 90+3), Harmanjyot Singh Khabra, Lalrindika Ralte, Edeh Chidi, Ryuji Sueoka (Seiminlen Doungel 46).
United SC: Abhijit Das, Bivas Sarkar, Anupam Sarkar, Bello Rasaq, Sukhen Dey, Lalkamal Bhowmick (Asif Kottayll 68), Souvik Chakraborty, Md Rafique (Surajit Bose 35; Baldeep Singh, 78), Eric Brown, Biswajit Biswas, Adekunle Waheed.
Referee: Umesh Bora
Mom: Edeh Chidi