| Armando Colaco |
Calcutta: A wasteful and erratic East Bengal went down 0-1 to Churchill Brothers in an Airtel I-League match at the Fatorda Stadium, in Margao, Goa, on Wednesday.
Raju Yumnam scored the winning goal for the hosts in the 23rd minute.
East Bengal were possibly the only challengers to Bengaluru FC and needed to win to keep the pressure on the league leaders. But at the start, there was no urgency from the visitors.
Without South Sudanese striker James Moga, the Churchill defence had a relatively quiet time, even though Nigerian striker Edeh Chidi tried to work his way through.
Churchill were dangerous on the break. With Balwant Singh and Anthony Wolfe in fine form up front, the East Bengal defenders hardly had any space to breathe.
Churchill came in waves at the start with Wolfe thwarted just in the nick of time by East Bengal custodian Abhra Mondal. Balwant Singh had one of his attempts going just wide of the post while Jaison Vales floundered after hesitating to take a crack at the goal.
East Bengal did not have too many good and clear looks at the rival goal. Lalrindika Ralte took Churchill goalkeeper Lalit Thapa by surprise with a snap shot.
Besides Lalrindika’s attempt, Joaquim Abranches too tested the goalkeeper but without much luck.
Churchill stunned the visitors in the 23rd minute from a counter attack initiated by Vales.
The Churchill midfielder picked out Raju making a fine run on the left, who saw Thangjam Singh unmarked just outside the box. Singh tried his luck but only ended up passing the ball to Raju whose close-range attempt sailed into the back of the net for the opening goal.
In the second session, East Bengal came hard at their Goan rivals but could not give finishing touches. The best chances fell at the feet of Chidi but the Nigerian striker first shot straight at the goalkeeper and then blasted wide from close range.
At the other end, Churchill could have killed the game as a contest if their strikers were sharp enough.
East Bengal were handicapped for the last 10 minutes of the match after captain Harmanjyot Singh Khabra was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Three victories on the trot had given East Bengal a decent enough chance for a shot at the title. A victory on Wednesday would have reduced the gap with tabletoppers Bengaluru FC to just one point.
Already facing a tough job with their last two matches — versus Dempo and Sporting Clube de Goa — being away encounters, Bengaluru could have had pressure doubled on them with an East Bengal win on Wednesday.
But as has been their tendency earlier in the competition, Armando Colaco's men again failed to withstand pressure, committing silliest of errors.