East Bengal brushed aside Pune FC 3-1 at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on Saturday evening to further close gap on Bengaluru FC to four points. Chidi Edeh and Lalrindika Ralte gave their side a 2-0 lead at half-time. Substitute Mirjan Pavlovic restored hope of a comeback for the away side with a goal near the hour mark. However Ralte added his second of the evening to register a comfortable victory.
Armando Colaco stuck with his winning combination from the victory against Mohammedan Sporting as Chidi Edeh reprised his role as the lone striker with Ryuji Sueoka operating from behind.
Meanwhile Mike Snoei started with Prakash Thorat upfront with Mustapha Riga in th. Douhou Pierr number ten role .
The match started with the Red and Gold looking purposeful in attack. It was good work from Chidi down the left which gave them their first half chance as the Nigerian's ball in the box was cleared to Harmanjot Khabra whose audacious overhead kick went high.
Douhou Pierre lost the ball in the opposition half and Lalrindika Ralte sent in a long ball for Sueoka who put a swerving low cross in, looking for Chidi at the far post. Although Srikant Ramu was in the way, he made a hash of the clearance. Chidi made no mistake, cut in and smashed the ball past a helpless Amrinder Singh in goal.
It was a flurry of chances at both ends near the half hour mark. Thorat held off Arnab Mondal and chested the ball onto the path of the onrushing Arata whose shot went over the bar. It was Thorat again who tried to find Gabriel Fernandes on the edge of the box, lining to take a shot but Riga came in the way which led to the opportunity being wasted.
At the other end, Amrinder came to his team's rescue as a lovely Cavin Lobo through ball had found Sueoka with only the goalkeeper to beat. East Bengal were not done as just three minutes later Chidi again squared it for Khabra to shoot from point blank range, only to see him smash it wide.
Gabriel Fernandes showed tremendous energy in the 36th minute as Pune broke down the right after Douhou had played a brilliant through ball to put him on the way but his shot was held by Abhra. He had another chance in the 42nd minute when his powerful drive from outside the box was tipped wide by Abhra again.
It was the home side however who doubled their lead in the next minute when Lobo again pierced the Pune FC defense to find Sueoka clean through on goal with Ralte beside him. He took his time in making the goalkeeper commit and then played it sideways to Ralte to slot the ball in an empty net.
There was controversy in added time as Raju Gaikwad lunged in as Arata was about to take a shot. While he didn't go down and his eventual shot went wide, there was enough contact for the referee to award a penalty.
After the break, Snoei made a positive change by bringing on Pavlovic by sacrificing Nicolau Borges. They pulled one back two minutes before the hour mark. Riga found Pavlovic who was kept onside by Abhishek Das and the Australian struck it into the top corner giving the goalkeeper no chance whatsoever.
In the 65th minute Arata Izumi had a golden chance to equalise as he was played through by Gurjinder Singh but his first touch let him down which allowed Abhra Mondal to hold on to the ball.East Bengal regained their two goal lead in the 70th minute after a thunderous strike from Lalrindika Ralte from inside the box. It was again good work from Chidi who passed it for Lobo inside the box. The midfielder found Ralte with an inch perfect pass who smashed it home with none of the Pune players closing him down.
Ralte could have had his hat trick in the 80th minute when he cut in brilliantly from the left but failed to put his shot on the target. Two minutes later, Pavlovic was very close in getting a goal back as he sped past Abhishek Das leaving him for dead. But he couldn’t squeeze it in from the narrow angle as Abhra parried. Thorat who was first to it failed to beat Abhra again as he dived to pull off a double save.