In an ill tempered clash at the Salt Lake Stadium, a late Ranti Martins goal was enough to finally end East Bengal's unbeaten run as Schattorie bounced back with a win.
A late goal by Ranti Martins Soleye in the 75th minute off a Lal Kamal Bhowmick corner was enough to see off Prayag United to a gritty 1-0 win over East Bengal at the Salt Lake Stadium. Ranti not only ended his team's losing streak but also terminated the Red and Golds unbeaten run which had stretched to 15 matches so far.
Trevor Morgan elected to start with an unchanged eleven as East Bengal lined up in their usual 4-3-3 formation with the trio of Penn Orji, Manandeep Singh and Chidi Edeh making up the attack force. The back four that conceded only one goal in ten matches was unaltered too.
Meanwhile Eelco Schattorie chose to play Sankar Oraon out wide on the right, in the absence of Shylo Malswamtulunga but he welcomed back experienced full back Deepak Mondal to the fold who replaced Chandrashekhar Chinta. Carlos Hernandez, started behind Ranti Martins who played as the target man upfront.
The match started with an early chance for the Red and Gold in the fifth minute as Ishfaq Ahmed was clean through after a delightful through ball from the midfield. However the Kashmiri failed to capitalize as his shot was scuffed out by an alert Subrata Paul, before Bello Rasaq cleared Chidi’s effort on the rebound.
As Eelco Schattorie’s side began to get into the match with effective pressing off the ball, they had a clutch of chances five minutes before the half hour mark. First it was CK Vineeth who weaved into the box with great feet but was crowded out by the East Bengal defense and could not release a shot. Lalkamal Bhowmick’s shot from the rebound was blocked too. Bello Rasaq then had a wonderful chance to put his team ahead as his unmarked header on the far post was agonizingly wide.
Just a minute later, Carlos Hernandez showed great control, plucking the ball from the air in the midfield before releasing Ranti Martins with a delightful lofted through ball. Ranti elected to shoot from outside the box but his shot was just tipped over by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
East Bengal lived dangerously as on the half hour mark, Ranti Martins was hacked down in the box by Arnab Mondal. In spite of contact, the referee decided to book the striker instead of awarding a spot-kick much to the amazement of the Prayag players.
With Bello Rasaq getting tight on Ranti, the home team was starved for chances. They came close in the 38th minute when Penn Orji saw his shot go hopelessly high. Bello too could have opened the scoring for his team as he had another chance to head his team to the lead off another Carlos corner.
After the half time break, East Bengal began pressing on to win the ball. It almost worked as just before the hour mark, it took a timely intervention from Deepak Mondal to prevent Ishfaq Ahmed from having a pop at goal.
Two minutes later, it was Carlos who failed to connect to a Mondal delivery from the right wing as he tried to hit it first time.
The chance of the half for East Bengal however fell to substitute Robin Singh in the 67th minute after Edeh Chidi had played him through. Bello Rasaq, who had an excellent game throughout, galloped back and under pressure, Robin could only shoot straight to Subrata Paul whose calculated gamble to come off the line paid off, as he made himself large to deny the striker a look at the goal.
Penn Orji did put the ball in the back of the net in the 71st minute, only to see referee flagging as Robin Singh, who had played the initial pass, having taken the ball out of play.
Prayag United finally made the pressure pay in the 75th minute, taking advantage of the home side's profligacy in front of goal, as Lalkamal Bhowmick's corner was expertly headed in by Ranti Martins after Uga Okpara had misjudged the ball leaving the Nigerian with a free header.
They could have doubled the lead easily as Ranti had two more chances just after his goal, as the Red and Gold defense looked rattled after conceding only their second goal in 11 matches. Arnab Mondal was guilty of falling asleep on both occasions but he somehow made up for his fault by clearing the ball before Ranti could pull the trigger.
The introduction of Lalrindika Ralte certainly added more impetus to the East Bengal attack who were looking desperate to score. A long range pile driver when Ralte saw Paul off the line, was somehow parried out by the India number 1 before he squared a delightful ball into the box which found an unmarked Chidi but, unfortunately for him, Paul looked in no mood to concede.
With five minutes added on time, the Prayag defense held firm to earn the team their first win after three back-to-back defeats. Meanwhile, East Bengal have suffered their first defeat of the season in the I-League.
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