Kolkata giants East Bengal had all hopes of winning their maiden I-League title vanquished when they were beaten 0-1 at home by DSK Shivajians, thanks to a 29th-minute winner from Jerry Mawihmingthanga.
Trevor Morgan’s intent to shake up things in his underachieving squad saw him make five changes from the Kolkata derby defeat. Wedson Anselme, Romeo Fernandes and Robert Lalthlamuana were dropped. Willis Plaza was serving his first game out suspended and Rehenesh TP was sent back to Kerala after the ‘middle finger incident’ midweek.
DSK Shivajians went in with an unchanged lineup from their 2-3 defeat at the hands of Shillong Lajong last weekend.
East Bengal went in with a changed formation as Rahul Bheke shifted to the centre and skipper Gurwinder Singh was deployed at right full back.
But the home team's defensive frailties saw the visitors take the upper hand early on as Seityasen Singh and Jerry Mawihmingthanga took shots at goal. The latter could have gone on to register a hat-trick inside 20 minutes but the teenager lacked the intent upfront.
Chris Payne missed as many as five chances to break the deadlock but the Aussie forward seemed fatigued in the final third.
But in the 29th minute, Mawihmingthanga finally got the goal he deserved to take the lead. Halicharan Narzary played on Juan Quero from the corner and the La Fabrica product crossed the ball high over ‘keeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury as Jerry popped up inside the box and headed it home diligently.
Subrata Paul pulled off a double save moments later to deny Rowllin Borges from seven yards and Bikash Jairu, playing his first game after seven months hit the rebound straight to the Arjuna awardee.
Robin Singh got the ball into the net four minutes after the restart but the referee awarded a foul against him for cashing onto Subrata Paul while guiding the ball down from Jairu’s controlled ball.
Chris Payne’s bad day at the office continued as he missed a sitter from close range and a ball from Jackichand was staved off by Sasa Kolunija near the goalline all in the span of a minute.
DSK targeted the gaping East Bengal defense through two pairs, Seityasen and Jerry along with Quero and Narzary managed to get past the defenders but adrenaline got the better of them when it came to shoot on goal.
Subrata Paul defied critics in the last fifteen minutes of the game as he pulled off three vital saves to deny East Bengal any hope of a comeback.
The Red and Golds slumped to their fourth loss on the bounce and remained on 27 points from 16 games, effectively ruling them out of the title race.
DSK Shivajians have had tr heihopes of qualifying into the Federation Cup made stronger as they leapfrogged Chennai City to go to 17 points in seventh place.
The tie, however, was marred by clashes between section of the crowd who booed the home team. ‘Go back Morgan’ and ‘Go back Wedson’ chants reverberated around the whole stadium during the course of the entire game.