East Bengal succumbed to a 0-1 defeat against George Telegraph in their Calcutta Football League (CFL) opener, courtesy of a late goal from Justice Morgan at their home ground on Friday afternoon.
Alejandro Menendez made eight changes to the side that trounced Jamshedpur FC 6-0 in Durand Cup. Marti Crespi made his debut for East Bengal but apart from him, there was no other overseas player available for selection as East Bengal had failed to register the likes of Borja Perez and Kassim Aidara with the Indian Football Association (IFA) within the stipulated time.
It was a lacklustre first half from both sides. In the absence of Jaime Colado upfront, East Bengal lacked creativity in the attacking third. George Telegraph was content to lock down their mighty opponents at the centre of the park.
Just after the 40th-minute mark, a golden opportunity befell East Bengal's Subhonil Ghosh to put his team in front but the young midfielder missed a simple tap-in from handshaking distance from goal after Abhijit Sarkar set him up with an inch-perfect low cross from the right side of the penalty box.
After the resumption of play, it was George Telegraph who got the first sight at goal in the 50th minute when Rajib Shaw’s long-ranger had beaten Dagar but bounced off the crossbar.
Menendez then made changes and the fresh legs certainly reinvigorated East Bengal’s attacks. However, George Telegraph’s defence led by the experienced Celestine Echezona proved difficult to surpass.
When the match seemed destined to end on level terms, Justice Morgan stunned a packed East Bengal stadium as he found the net with a low left-footed shot in the 93rd minute. Substitute Arun Suresh managed to slip the ball in behind East Bengal’s defence for the Nigerian who kept his calm and slotted the ball beyond the reach of Dagar into the bottom right corner.
With this win, George Telegraph move to the top of the table after picking up their third straight win in CFL. East Bengal will return to action on August 14 against Bengaluru FC in the Durand Cup.