| Douglas da Silva gets a pat on the back from coach Subhas Bhowmick after East Bengal’s 4-0 win over Vasco at Salt Lake Stadium on Friday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta: East Bengal needed a point to seal the National Football League title Friday. With Vasco saying they too were harbouring hopes of doing the same, the home team came out to prove a point.
The Goans, after all, had dared to say they would beat East Bengal at home.
As if to teach the visitors a lesson, Subhas Bhowmick’s team produced a near flawless performance and decimated Vasco 4-0 in the 21st round match at Salt Lake Stadium.
The commanding show fetched East Bengal their second National League crown with a round to spare. It capped a wonderful season for East Bengal, the National League title being their fifth in as many tournaments.
After a watchful start during which they tried to fathom the intensity of Vasco’s challenge, East Bengal took the lead in spectacular style in the 13th minute through Douglas da Silva.
The Brazilian killed the contest two minutes into the second session with his second and it was all East Bengal after that. Shylo Malswamtluanga, who turned the match decisively in favour of East Bengal after coming in as a substitute in the second half, scored the third in the 66th and Mike Okoro rounded off the tally eight minutes from time.
The rout of Vasco took East Bengal’s tally to 49 points. Vasco slipped to third with 40. Derek Perreira’s team may now lose out on a berth in the AFC Champions League if Salgaocar win their last match and finish second.
Apart from playing with just one striker in Okoro, East Bengal did little wrong despite playing under pressure, against a balanced side also hungry for success. Barring a couple of occasions in the first half, the home team goal was never under sustained pressure and after the break, East Bengal virtually toyed with the visitors.
Vasco were lucky to see their own record of the biggest win in National League history — the recent 8-0 demolition of ITI remain intact. East Bengal could easily have matched it had Okoro been able to convert some simple chances.
So authoritative was East Bengal’s win, it prompted Man-of-the-Match adjudicator Shyam Thapa to point out that it was the performance “of a real big team.” “It was a pressure game for them and they handled it superbly,” said the star of yesteryears, who along with co-adjudicator Parimal Dey picked Douglas for the award.
Following something like a 3-6-1 format rather than 3-5-2, East Bengal always had enough men at the rear to combat a possible Vasco onslaught. Vasco did attack in patches but were easily outnumbered in the danger zone. East Bengal’s marking was also very tight, with Suley Musah keeping dangerman Marcos Perreira quiet.
The first goal came following a corner from the right. It was a routine ball floated near the tip of the box and took a deflection before travelling towards Douglas who was lurking around the unmanned far corner of the penalty area. With the ball bouncing up to a height of his liking, the Brazilian unleashed an overhead volley that surprised everybody.
Apart from a few stray moves, Vasco seriously tested the East Bengal defence for the time in the 41st minute. Abhay Kumar cut in from the left and his centre reached Rui Wanderlei Weis inside the box. Weis tried to hook the ball back across the goalmouth, but goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee effected a timely interception and Marcos’ attempt off the rebound was too high.
It was one-way traffic in the second half. Malswamtluanga tore apart the Vasco defence with his searing runs down the right and set up Okoro at least three times of which the Nigerian converted just one. The young Mizo himself came close in the 60th minute, but his header was cleared off the goalline by a backtracking Seby Dias.
Malswamtluanga got his due six minutes later when he latched onto a ball from the midfield and ran down the right before cutting inside the box, taking aim and slotting the ball past a hapless Rogerio Ramos under the Vasco bar.
Though it was not his day, Okoro got his share of the pie after being set up once again by Malswamtluanga.
It was a performance of true champions by East Bengal, distinctly superior in every department, leaving no chance to debate who deserved what.
East Bengal: Sangram Mukherjee; Dipak Mondal, M. Suresh, Suley Musah; Sashthi Duley, S. Venkatesh, Chandan Das (Dipankar Roy, 62), Douglas da Silva; Alvito D’Cunha (Shylo Malswamtluanga, 46), Mike Okoro.
Vasco: Rogerio Ramos; Seby Dias, Sanjay Parte, Franky Barreto (Satish Minz, 52); Selwyn Fernandes, Sushant Matthew (Abhay Kumar, 28), Jules Alberto, Menino Fernandes, Rui Wanderlei Weis; Marcos Perreira, Agnelo Gomes (Nitin Pradhan, 64).
Referee: Panya Hanlum (Thailand).