In what was a scrappy performance from the Red and Golds, they still managed to show plenty of character to hold on, inspite of being a man down and grab an important victory...
Holicharan Narzary and Alwyn George started upfront to provide the main attacking thrust for Pailan Arrows while the impressive Tirthankar Sarkar was on the bench yet again.
Trevor Morgan meanwhile chose to be cautious, with one eye on the big Kolkata Derby next weekend. He opted to field Subodh Kumar and Cavin Lobo instead of Penn Orji and Mehtab Hussain who were one booking away from suspension. New recruit Andrew Barisic started upfront with Edeh Chidi while Uga Okpara partnered Gurwinder Singh in central defense, with Arnab Mondal missing due to suspension.
Within no time, it was Pailan Arrows who took the lead through Alwyn George who had an easy tap in at the far post. R Vishal Kumar had swung in a long throw which was headed towards his path by a towering Holicharan Narzary who did so well to avert the attentions of Uga Okpara.
And in the 7th minute it was all level. Subodh Kumar on the left wing had played a delightful through ball to Chidi who beat his marker and had only Soram Anganba to beat. The goalkeeper came off his line to smother the ball but only got the man, giving away a penalty in the process. Chidi made no mistake smashing it to the right of the goalkeeper who stood no chance at stopping that.
In the 30th minute, seeing the Pailan keeper off the line, Barisic tried an audacious effort from near the half line which was just inches wide, and would have left the goalie for dead, if it was on target. Two minutes later, the Red and Gold completed the turnaround. It was Chidi who was the creator as he did ever so well down the right, by getting past two Pailan players, before sliding a ball in, seeing Lalrindika Ralte's late run into the box. Ralte made no mistake and smashed it in the back of the net.
Just before half time, Pailan Arrows had a delightful chance to level the game. A beautiful through pass for Narayan Das, who saw Narzary making a run off the shoulders of the last defender, found the youngster with acres of space. However, having gone too wide for his own liking his feeble shot was easily parried by Abhijit Mondal for a corner.
In between East Bengal's reliance on playing long balls to their two sturdy strikers up front, especially the towering Andrew Barisic did not bear much fruit, as the Pailan defense stood tall on most occassions. However Barisic, played through by Subodh Kumar in the 38th minute could not find a cross for Chidi who was waiting in the box, ready to pounce.
East Bengal had two great chances just three minutes before the hour mark but Soram was upto the task on both occassions pulling off two great back-to-back saves. Subodh Kumar broke down the right before finding Cavin Lobo with a good pass at the edge of the box whose piledriver was well parried by Soram. The next save was even better as Chidi from close range was thwarted by the Pailan custodian who held on to the Nigerian's shot.
The Red and Gold kept trying to probe through the Pailan defense, looking to find a gap with through balls and lofted deliveries but brilliant interceptions from both Shouvik Ghosh and Pritam Kotal meant that they could find no chink in the armour.
Things turned ugly in the 75th minute, as Manandeep Singh was sent off for elbowing Pronay Haldar in the penalty box. It started with Penn Orji winning a corner for his team with some deft play down the right. However before Mehtab Hussain could swing the corner in, referee L.Khan gave the India international striker his marching orders.
Pailan Arrows did manage to put together a couple of decent moves in order to breach the East Bengal backline to find the elusive equaliser but their efforts didn't bear fruit in the end. At the fag end of the match in fact, centre back Pritam Kotal was unmarked in the opposition box but shot high from point blank range, with Abhijit Mondal well beaten.
With the victory, East Bengal go top of the table, momentarily at least. However, Trevor Morgan will have a dilemma at hand as Manandeep Singh will be missing from the Kolkata Derby and it will be either Robin Singh partnering Edeh Chidi or sacrificing a foreigner to play Andrew Barisic.
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