East Bengal finally ended their six match winless run in the I-League after a narrow 1-0 win over Mumbai FC at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on Thursday evening.
The only goal of the match came in the 60th minute when Ghanaian striker Yusif Yakubu scored from the spot after Abel Hammond was brought down in the box.
Hosts East Bengal knew that this was a must win game for them and with the match being played on Bengal New Years Day, there was an extra incentive for the players to do something for the fans.
Phillipe De Ridder made just one change to the team that started in the 1-0 defeat against Dempo with Alvito D’Cunha replacing young Saikat Saha Roy, in a much more attacking formation. Indian skipper Bhaichung Bhutia was named in the bench.
For Mumbai FC the biggest team news was the absence of their top scorer and captain Abhishek Yadav from the starting lineup.
East Bengal started brightly and could have easily opened the scoring in the 12th minute when Alvito wasted a good opportunity after some fine build up play from Hammond and Okpara.
The red and gold brigade continued to dominate but just like in the game against Dempo, they were not clinical in front of goal.
Skipper Syed Rahim Nabi combined well with Yakubu a couple of times but failed to work Mumbai custodian Nidhinlal on both occasions.
Close to the half an hour mark Yakubu had a one-on-one situation with the keeper but the Ghanaian uncharacteristically failed to hit the target.
Possession wise it continued to be one way traffic with Mumbai offering very little going forward.
But despite their domination, East Bengal didn’t really test Nidhinlal to the fullest as the score read goalless at halftime.
The second half continued the way the first ended as the home side continued to have all the play but were lacking quality in the final third.
Mumbai had a rare opening on the break when Hiralal Chettri found some space and time in the East Bengal box to shoot but his shot was well blocked by Okpara.
Just when Khalid Jamil’s team were starting to come into the game East Bengal were awarded a penalty when Kamaljeet Kumar fouled Abel Hammond inside the box.
East Bengal’s highest scorer Yusif Yakubu stepped up to take the spot kick and coolly converted it by sending Nidhinlal the wrong way.
The goal brought a huge cheer in the stands but it was more about relief for the East Bengal players and coaching staff as they were on course for three precious points.
Hammond should have doubled the advantage midway through the second period when he found himself free in front of goal but his effort was straight into the hands of Nidhinlal.
Eighteen minutes from the 90, De Ridder made a double substitution as Sanju Pradhan replaced Nabi and Bhaichung Bhutia came on for young Beiokhokhei.
The Sikkimese Sniper did try to cause a few problems to the Mumbai defence but his best contribution was when he provided a good pass for Yakubu that almost gave the Ghanaian a clear sight of goal but he was stopped by a last ditch tackle from Bashiru Abbas.
In the closing stages, East Bengal did drop deep and allowed Mumbai to have the ball but the visitors were unable to create any goal scoring opportunity.
The Kolkata giants held on for a massive win as it moved them up three places to eighth while Mumbai’s winless run is now extended to ten matches which could see them end up in the bottom two at the end of this round.
Goalscorer: Yusif Yakubu (pen) 60’
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