Calcutta: Kingfisher East Bengal ended their three-match winless streak in I-League when they defeated Mohammedan Sporting 2-1, at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Tuesday.
After James Moga put East Bengal ahead in the 18th minute, Taro Hasegawa restored parity in the 32nd minute. And six minutes before regulation time, Edeh Chidi — playing his first match since picking up a hamstring injury against Dempo SC — netted the winner to give East Bengal their first I-League victory of 2014. The last win came against Bengaluru FC way back on December 15. It was also East Bengal’s first win after five matches in all competitions.
East Bengal now have 23 points from 15 matches, while Mohammedan Sporting remain in the 12th position with 17 points from 18 matches.
East Bengal, after a long time, played like they used to when Trevor James Morgan was at the helm. Chidi and Moga worked really hard, but the man who stole the show was Shylo Malsawmtluanga, who by his own admission played one of his best matches of his career.
Uga Okpara also got a start — for the first time since the Federation Cup match against Bengaluru FC on January 21 — but limped out a minute before the Mohammedan Sporting equaliser, after aggravating his ankle injury.
Coach Armando Colaco, at the post-match media conference, feared this could be the Uga’s last match for the 2013-14 season. “By the look of it, I think it’s over for Uga. May be he has played his last match of the season. He will have an MRI done on Wednesday and the extent of the damage will be known only after the report comes in,” Colaco said.
Naoba Singh replaced Uga and that forced Colaco to rejig the back-four. Raju Gaikwad, who was playing as the right back, came at the central defence, while Naoba was in his usual right-back position. Arnab and Raju played with a lot of courage and that’s good news for the East Bengal camp.
East Bengal were all over Mohammedan Sporting on Tuesday. They created quite a few chances and dictated the proceedings right from the word ‘go’. The first goal came in the 18th minute. Ryuji Sueoka’s delightful through got a faint touch off Chidi and Mehrajuddin Wadoo’s bungle allowed Moga to hit the back of the net.
The winner came in the 84th. Malsawmtluanga made a darting run on the right and played it to Chidi, whose first touch fooled Nirmal completely. And then, he unleashed a booming volley even as Sandeep Sangha, who came in place of an injured Luciano Sabrosa, was breathing down his neck.
Chidi, who drew a lot of flak for pulling out the clash against Mohun Bagan a couple of weeks back, showed his strapped thigh to the fans.
East Bengal: Abhijit Mondal, Raju Gaikwad, Arnab Mondal, Uga Okpara (Naoba Singh 33),Robert Lalthalmuana, Shylo Malsawmtluanga (Semilen Doungel 90+4), Harmanjyot Singh Khabra, Ryuji Sueoka, Lalrindika Ralte, Chidi Edeh, James Moga (Cavin Lobo 90).
Mohammedan Sporting: Luis Barreto, Nirmal Chetri, Luciano Sabrosa (Sandeep Sangha 56), Mehrajuddin Wadoo, R. Dhanarajan, Monirul Mondal (Taro Hasegawa 26), Manish Maithani, Penn Orji, Syed Rahim Nabi, Rakesh Masih (Ashim Biswas 88), Joshimar.
Referee: CR Srikrishna (Tamil Nadu)
MoM: James Moga