The Red and Gold stormed to a morale boosting win over the Goan side to end their title hopes...East Bengal defeated Sporting Clube de Goa in a round 23 I-League encounter played in the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on Sunday evening. Baljit Sahni (45'+2) opened the scoring for East Bengal while Lalrindika Ralte (65') doubled the lead. Beevan D'Mello (90') pulled one back for the Goan outfit, but it was too little too late.
Armando Colaco went in with a lone striker in Chidi Edeh upfront and Ryuji Sueoka in a roving role behind him. Surprisingly Reisangmi Vashum was left on the bench while Lalrindika Ralte got a start.
Meanwhile Oscar Bruzon was cautious as he packed the midfield with only Boima Karpeh operating as a striker.
In the ninth minute of the match, Joaquim Abranches unintentionally deflecteion from a Joseph Pereira cross could have gone into his own net only for an alert Abhra Mondal to tip it wide.
In a half devoid of many clear cut opportunities, Sueoka saw his effort go inches wide after Chidi had done brilliantly down the right beating Chinta Chandrashekhar to drill a ball in. A minute later Lalrindika Ralte had a pop from outside the box but was fairly wide of the target.
Sporting were content to sit back and loft ball towards Karpeh and the Australian was easily crowded out with the midfield runners taking too long to back him up.
Baljit Singh Sahni who came on for the struggling Cavin Lobo had an immediate impact as he was at the end of two half chances which were eventually wasted.
The first, in the 41st minute was when Robert Lalthlamuana hit a lofted through ball to find Sahni in an onside position with only the goalkeeper to beat. However Neila had made a timely recovery to put him under pressure and the striker lost his footing to go down in the box with the referee waving away any appeals of a penalty.
A minute later, Baljit pounced on an apparent miscommunication between Jovel Martins and Neila to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but this time also he wasted too much time, allowing the centre-back to recover and clear the danger.
However it was third time lucky for Sahni in injury time. Abranches showed tremendous vision as he picked out Ralte on the left with a precise cross field diagonal ball. Ralte too put in a peach of a ball in the box that was waiting to be attacked. Sahni obliged and smashed it in with the ball going in off the crossbar giving Melroy Fernandes in goal no chance.
The only incident worth recounting till the hour mark was the offside given against Ralte's goal as he found himself in acres of space down the left netting Joaquim Abranches' cross with ease.
It was a fortuitous strike that got the Kolkata outfit a two goal cushion. A long throw from Raju Gaikwad created havoc in the box as Melroy came out and failed to hold on to the ball. Sueoka evaded his marker and played it on for Abranches to shoot. Abranches instead laid it off to Ralte who was lurking outside. Just when it looked that the chance was wasted, Ralte's fierce drive from about 20 yards wrongfooted Melroy after a meaty deflection off Chandrashekhar.
It was a clutch of chances after 70 minutes. First it was Karpeh who could not be faulted for effort as he did ever so well to hold the ball up down the left before cutting it back for Beevan D'Mello who chested it first before his fierce drive from close range was tipped well by Abhra Mondal.
Thereafter East Bengal missed a hat-trick of chances. Ralte only managed to only find the side netting off a brilliant Joaquim Abranches cross. Then it was Sahni who failed to find Ralte's run in the box even though he had acres of space and time to find a pass.
Sahni missed another gilt-edged chance as he could not even head on target from yet another delightful Abranches cross from the right.
The last ten minutes were spent in Sporting trying to get a goal back as they thrust Neila up in attack to give their midfielder an extra target to aim to. It bore fruit eventually as they got one back in the 90th minute through Beevan D' Mello in a very scrappy fashion.
Karpeh made Abhra save from close range. And then it was Kalu Nnanna who failed to hit the target in two attempts with the ball finally coming out to Beevan outside the box who smashed it into the bottom corner past all the bodies.
East Bengal's nerves were tested in the injury time but they held on well and secured a gritty win.