East Bengal FC have ended Bengaluru FC's perfect start to the season by downing the champions 2-1 at the Barasat stadium. After CK Vineeth (23') notched up his 5th goal of the campaign to put The Blues in the lead, it was Ivan Bukenya (28') and Robin Singh (79') who turned the tie around for the Kolkatan side.
Trevor Morgan started predictably in his classic diamond formation, giving new recruit Ildar Amirov a start alongside Willis Plaza while Wedson Anselme was deployed in the No. 10 role. Gurwinder Singh partnered Ivan Bukenya in central defence with Anwar Ali joining Arnab Mondal on the injured list.
Albert Roca, meanwhile, came out with a 4-3-3 variant with Sena Ralte and Harmanjot Khabra deployed as the two full backs while Udanta Singh and Sunil Chhetri flanked CK Vineeth who was the farthest man forward.
The match got off to a slow start with both teams involved in patient buildup trying to probe each other's weakness. However, the away side soon stamped their authority on the game which was bound to happen due to the way the two teams were set up.
Enjoying the lion's share of the possession, The Blues conjured up the first chance of the match when an overlapping Khabra's cross was somehow cleared by Gurwinder Singh with Vineeth lurking behind, ready to head it into the goal.
This was preceded by Sunil Chhetri trying to make something happen out of absolutely nothing as he tried to manoeuvre a shot towards the far corner but Rehenesh had to palm it away for his defence to deal with.
Bengaluru finally surged into the lead courtesy of CK Vineeth. A darting run down the left by Eugeneson Lyngdoh left Rahul Bheke and Mehtab dead in his wake before he found Vineeth perfectly with a cutback from the byline. The Keralite proceeded to place it in the far corner, giving Rehenesh no chance.
However, it only took East Bengal a mere five minutes to equalise as Ivan Bukenya tapped in, in 28th minute. In a match where they were clearly second best so far, a training ground routine from the corner saw Lalrindika Ralte and Wedson exchange passes which left Ralte completely free as two Bengaluru defenders were drawn towards Wedson. Ralte did ever so well to go to the byline and flash a delightful ball across the face of the goal which required only a tap in with the Bengaluru defence caught ball watching, and Bukenya was there to oblige.
The match saw some tense moments thereafter with Sunil Chhetri and Mehtab Hossein caught in a tussle which actually seemed to be the turning point of the match in hindsight as Bengaluru lost their focus from that moment forward.
Five minutes from half-time, The Red and Golds almost surged into the lead after Wedson hit a lovely diagonal to find Plaza down the right who casually nutmegged Juanan before undoing all his fine work by inexplicably shooting straight at Amrinder.
It seemed both teams were competing to spurn chances as Bukenya committed a schoolboy error on the other end which saw Eugeneson Lyngdoh jump to grab the opportunity but his shot was kept out acrobatically by Rehenesh. Sunil Chhetri wanted to pick up the pieces but Gurwinder Singh came out in time to clear the danger.
The second half began with Bengaluru trying to exert pressure and control the match, like they did in the first thirty odd minutes of the match. Udanta Singh seemed to run amok down the right and crafted two back to back opportunities but East Bengal somehow managed to clear their lines on both occasions.
Soon enough, both teams again had chances in what was an end to end match. First it was Sunil Chhetri again trying to find the far corner but only managing to find a grateful Rehenesh which was followed by youngster Nikhil Poojary getting clear on goal but failing to beat an alert Amrinder Singh, after Mehtab had played him through with a lovely long diagonal.
In the 62nd minute, Willis Plaza spurned another chance after he was again played on by Mehtab down the right. Taking out Juanan with ease, he chose to go for goal himself but hit it straight to Amrinder even though he had Wedson Anselme in acres of space beside him.
Plaza seemed to have left his shooting boots definitely at home as merely five minutes later Poojary had played him through after another delightful break by the youngster. Showing oodles of pace, the striker accelerated clear of the Bengaluru defence but was hesitant in pulling the trigger, allowing Amrinder to smother it yet again.
Trevor Morgan could not believe his luck on the touchline as his tactic of plugging Ralte infield besides Mehtab seemed to bring East Bengal back into the match and bringing on Robin Singh instead of the static Amirov worked wonders. But their profligacy in front of goal meant that the scores were still tied.
In the 74th minute, Robin almost paid back his coach's confidence in full as he turned and pulled off a delectable chip after seeing Amrinder off his line but Bengaluru were saved by the crossbar.
Anselme was pivotal throughout as a breakaway move saw him playing on Robin down the left but he choose to pick out Willis Plaza on the far side instead of going for goal himself. However Plaza spurned yet another chance as he failed to connect in spite of a last ditch dive.
Robin finally scored against his former team just about ten minutes from time when a defensive mixup between Juanan and Watson saw Robin get on the ball just outside the box with Watson's header falling kindly for the striker. This time he chose to take a shot even though Plaza was free down the centre. And it bore fruit as his shot bulged the back of the net, much to the glee of the home supporters.
The home side could have had three more goals at the death with Willis Plaza missing from point blank range yet again after Anselme set him up from the left. Anselme himself had his smart chip saved by Amrinder who pulled off yet another save from a marauding Poojary who had a terrific game.
The victory sees East Bengal surmount Bengaluru on the table as they surge to second position on 10 points behind Mohun Bagan while Roca's men have to be content with third position for now.