| OKORO: Pips Ekeh as leading scorer
Margao: East Bengal consolidated their position at the top of the table and moved closer to the National Football League title as they beat Churchill Brothers 3-1 at Nehru Stadium here on Thursday.
After Churchillís Ratan Singh neutralised Douglas de Silva Santosí first-half strike, Man-of-the-match Alvito DíCunha gave East Bengal an early lead in the second half and Mike Okoro settled the issue once and for all for the Calcutta outfit in the dying minutes of the match.
With this strike, Okoro emerged the leading scorer with 11 goals. Mohun Baganís George Ekeh follows him with 10 goals.
The win gave East Bengal 33 points from 13 matches and they are now nine points clear from nearest rivals Salgaocar. Churchill remained on sixth position with 20 points from as many matches.
The margin of victory was, however, somehow misleading. It was the home team who dominated the proceedings for most of the times and looked more aggressive. But Yasif Yakubu and Co. failed to translate chances, which fell their way, into goals through poor finishing and final passes in the penetrative zone.
On the other hand, East Bengal played a waiting game and but proved their class when they converted all their chances into goals. Churchillís Yakubu, who played a stellar role in the upfront, troubled the rival defence despite being tightly marked. However, their second striker, new Ghanaian recruit Benjamin Ansah had a forgettable debut.
Midway into the first half, he had an open chance when a Roque Barreto floater found him inside the box but his header went astray.
After this close shave, East Bengal took the lead in the 27th minute when Douglasí pinpoint header off an Alvito-taken free-kick beat Churchill goalkeeper Edward Ansah all ends up.
Churchill made a counter move seven minutes later. Yakubu set a pass to Ratan, who found himself open after beating an off-side trap. He then cut íkeeper Sandip Nandy and placed the ball into the net with an angular drive to level the scores.
After the change of ends, East Bengal once again took the lead with a fine move from the left. Medio Shasthi Duley, collecting a pass from Douglas, relayed the ball to Alvito, who after positioning himself, flicked in the ball past Ansah.
Stung by the upset, Churchill continued to put pressure but failed to secure the equaliser as East Bengal crowded their defence.
As a desperate Churchill pushed more men in front and with keeper Ansah also moving well up near the centre line, East Bengal made the most of an counter-attack. A long clearance by an East Bengal player from his own half saw the ball going to Okoro who, seeing Ansah off the line, took a long shot to find the net.
Mahesh Gawli and Yakubu, were booked for dangerous challenge on rivals players. (PTI)