EB ride Marti strike to take pole position
East Bengal had the stroke of luck as Marti Crespi’s late strike earned them a crucial 2-1 victory over TRAU FC, here, at the Kalyani Stadium on Saturday.
With doubts remaining over Jaime Santos’s availability for the Derby clash on December 22, things looked ominous for the men in red and gold jerseys as the bottom-placed team made them break a lot of sweat in order to earn full points.
However, the slice of luck East Bengal enjoyed in the 89th minute helped them heave a sigh of relief. They move atop the I-League standings with eight points from four matches.
East Bengal seemed to be heading towards another frustrating draw before Crespi slotted the ball home from less than six yards after a Kassim Aidara centre was headed down by Marcos Espada — their other goal-scorer.
The final whistle was yet to be blown even when the added time was well past the scheduled four minutes, and tension was palpable in Alejandro Menendez Garcia’s face. The head coach, in an attempt to reduce his worry and anxiety, urged the partisan crowd to cheer louder while at the same time pointing his watch towards the linesman.
East Bengal do go into next Sunday’s Derby without any defeat so far, unlike arch-rivals Mohun Bagan, but it remains to be seen how Alejandro’s wards cope with the tasks.
The evening, though, had begun on a bright note for East Bengal. Holding the upper hand right from the start, they took the lead early in the 17th minute when Marcos’s header off Samad Ali Mallick’s cross found the target.
East Bengal were nicely in control of the game then. But as has been their perennial problem, East Bengal missed opportunities and silly mistakes in the defence helped TRAU FC crawl their way back into the game.
The visitors eventually restored parity a little before half-time. Angousana Luwang’s diagonal free-kick from the right rebounded off to Phalguni Singh whose attempt was diverted in by Deepak Devrani. East Bengal and their supporters were left stunned.
The former Bagan player had earlier made a superb clearance from close to the goalline, denying Marcos, who latched on to the rival goalie’s attempted clearance and lobbed it towards an open goal.
That equaliser seemed to have a severe impact on East Bengal’s rhythm as they began looking wretched after the change of ends. Jaime’s absence appeared to be felt badly. Ronaldo Oliviera, replacing the Spaniard, went largely unnoticed till he was benched in the 65th minute. The impressive Juan Mera did put in a lot of effort, but his flag-kicks and free-kicks lacked precision.
The production house and official broadcaster of this I-League, who are in the news for poor coverage of the matches, struggled with the telecast once again during Saturday’s game. On at least three to four occasions, live coverage was affected with the channel blaming it on “technical difficulties from the venue”.