The Nigerian once again made all the difference against the Red Lizards, as was the case in the reverse fixture which they won 1-0 in Kolkata...East Bengal see themselves two points within I-League leaders Churchill Brothers after defeating Pune FC 2-1 in the round 18 encounter played at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune, on Friday evening.
The Kolkatan outfit had taken the lead in the sixth minute when Edeh Chidi opened the scoring, while Arata Izumi drew the Red Lizards level in the 17th minute, but for the Nigerian to score the winner from the spot in the 75th minute.
Pune FC made three changes as Subhash Singh, Chika Wali and Mumtaz Akhtar were included in the starting lineup.
Australian striker Andrew Barisic started on the bench for the away side, while Raju Gaikwad returned to the side in place of suspended defender Uga Okpara.
The home side launched the ball towards James Moga from the first minute onwards as the South Sudanese made life difficult for the East Bengal citadel. However it was the away side who took the lead in the sixth minute.
East Bengal's top scorer Edeh Chidi was bang on target after Harmanjot Khabra crossed from the right found the Nigerian who blasted it past Abhra Mondal.
James Moga continued to threaten and his physical presence was asking questions of the East Bengal backline.
It took 11 minutes for the equaliser to come as it all started from Douhou Pierre winning the free-kick from which Moga headed it towards Izumi Arata to finish clinically to make it 1-1.
East Bengal defender Raju Gaikwad's inclusion added an attacking threat as his throw-ins were a constant menace for the home side to deal with.
One of Gaikwad's long deliveres was flicked by Manandeep Singh, but Abhra Mondal made the save in the 40th minute.
After the break, Pune FC started off brighter and their first real opportunity to surge ahead came in the 53rd minute as goalkeeper Abhijit Mondal did well to stop Moga's attempt before the ball fell for Pierre who shot wide.
In a despairing miss, Moga's header came off the post in the 72nd minute while East Bengal launched a quick counter which ended in Chidi being brought to ground in the penalty area by Subhash Singh. Chidi didn't make any mistakes and put his side into the lead.
Pune FC were toothless in attack and never really tested the East Bengal rearguard thereafter despite eight minutes of injury time by Tamil Nadu based referee CR Srikrishna.
East Bengal hence take three points from the contest, taking their tally to 36 points from 18 matches, while Pune FC have 30 points from 16 matches.
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