In what was a pulsating encounter at the Salt Lake Stadium, a late goal by East Bengal saw them return to winning ways while relegating Mohammedan to a defeat...East Bengal edged past Mohammedan Sporting 2-1 in a postponed round two I-League match played at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, on Tuesday. James Moga broke the deadlock in the 18th minute which was cancelled out by Taro Hasegawa in the 34th minute with Chidi Edeh scoring the winner six minutes from regulation time.
Armando Colaco welcomed back Uga Okpara in the centre of his defense pushing Raju Gaikwad to the right while Harmanjot Khabra and Ryuji Sueoka slotted in midfield supported by the duo of Chidi Edeh and James Moga upfront.
Meanwhile Sanjoy Sen relegated Taro Hasegawa to the bench replacing him with Penn Orji. Mehrajuddin Wadoo too returned to the defense with Sandeep Sangha only on the bench. Josimar was the lone striker upfront.
The match started on a comical note with Abhijit Mondal almost allowing the ball to roll into the net from a regulation backpass. In the 12th minute, Lalrindika Ralte had played a lovely cross-field diagonal into the box which found Ryuji Sueoka making a late run into the box. Howeber his weak toe poke just managed to take the ball past the keeper and the post.
James Moga almost made it count when his free-kick from 25 yards was tipped over by an alert Luis Barreto. On the other end, Josimar displayed lovely feet with a string of stepovers and his ball in the box was cleared by Okpara before it could reach Penn.
It was only the 18th minute when East Bengal took the lead with Mehrajuddin Wadoo clearly having the lions' share of the blame. Chidi's flick towards Moga gave Wadoo enough of an opportunity to clear but his abject kick in the air allowed Moga to seize the opportunity. The South Sudan international made no mistake and thumped the ball past a despairing Luis Barreto who had no chance.
East Bengal had a chance to double their lead just two minutes later when Robert Lalthlamuana lifted in a delightful ball from the left and Moga's powerful header just went over.
Shylo Malsawmtluanga whipped a fabulous ball from the right that was just waiting for Chidi to head it in. He was shoved from the path by Nirmal Chettri but the referee waved away the protests of the East Bengal players and officials, allowing play to continue.
It was game over for the returning Okpara just after thirty odd minutes as he went down holding his ankle. Mohammedan took advantage of it as they equalised in the 34th minute after some slack defending by Robert this time. Dhanranajan's whipped cross into the box was headed in at the far post by substitute, Taro Hasegawa with the East Bengal left back caught ball watching.
It was Mohammedan who looked to be on top after the goal. Luciano Sobrosa almost flicked the ball onto Josimar to head, off a Nabi corner. Then it was Hasegawa who played an inch perfect diagonal cross from his own half to find Nabi only for his poor first touch to let him down. Although he did recover but his cross in the box was cleared easily.
Nabi had a further pop at goal before the half got over but his curled effort was wide of the post and did not trouble Abhijit Mondal.
It was on the hour mark that the first genuine chance was created in the half. Josimar found himself with a lot of work to do as he was dragged down the left. However he pulled a rabbit out of his hat as he cut in and made room for him before unleashing a fierce shot which had Mondal beaten and it was only the post that saved the day for East Bengal.
Three minutes later, on the counter Malsawmtluanga ran from his own half before playing a quick one-two with Moga who held up the ball well before returning the favour. Mama found Sueoka in the box but the Japanese shot wide from close range.
Both teams had chances to go ahead before it was eighty minutes on the block. First it was Mohammedan's Penn who showed good feet down the left before his cross in the box was headed out by Raju to a lurking Manish Maithani outside the box. His attempt at a half volley went wide of the post.
The Red and Gold had two gilt edged chances themselves. First it was another great ball in by Ralte from his own half which saw Chidi take a first time effort that just rolled wide of the post. Then it was an even better chance as Naoba Singh struck the post with what was an attempted cross into the box which was going in, having eluded Luis Barreto who was at full stretch.
It was Sueoka who put his body on the line after Taro Hasegawa had shot from inside the box to preserve the scoreline and give East Bengal a deserved win.
Six minutes from time was when Armando Colaco's team stormed into the lead. It was Malsawmtluanga again who was the architect when another lofted ball from his own half was cushioned well by Chidi before smashing in to the far corner, giving Baretto no chance.
This was East Bengal's first win after the resumption of the I-League with their last win coming on the 15th December, 2013 when they won away at Bengaluru. For Mohammedan however it was the return of status quo as after four points from two matches, it was back to suffering a defeat.
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