East Bengal romped to a 7-1 victory over a fragile Chennai City in their I-League clash at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday. Dudu Omagbemi registered a season-first hat-trick before adding one more to his tally as the Kolkata giants sealed three crucial three points at home to make a stern statement in the race for the title.
Khalid Jamil made four changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Gokulam Kerala FC. Arnab Mondal, Danmawia, Samad and Yami Longvah were replaced by Gurwinder, Mehtab Singh, Brandon and Ansumana Kromah, who made his first start since joining from Mohun Bagan mid-way through the season.
V Soundararajan replaced a suspended Tarif Akhand with midfielder Asif Kottayil in the starting line-up for the visitors as they sought to avoid an onerous fight to remain in the I-League.
Mehtab Singh and Al-Amna combined well early on in the game and although they couldn't convert their chances, it was a signal of things to come.
The Syrian danger-man caused havoc inside the box to break open the deadlock in the 20th minute. Neither Schumeiko or Edwin were able to handle Al-Amna inside the box as the midfielder forced goalie Kabir into two good blocks before sending a third chipped effort into the net.
Three minutes later, Al-Amna released Chullova on an overlapping run and the full-back's shot was forced into his own net by Dharmaraj Ravanan to gift a 2-0 lead to the home side.
Misfiring French forward Joachim Junior was thrown into the equation in place of Beautin after the second goal went in as Soundararajan sensed danger. But the change did not have an impact as the visitors' shoddy defending allowed the home side to create inroads.
The defenders went to sleep as Dudu Omagbemi sneaked into the box to head Mehtab's cross from the left into the net. As the referee brought the half to an end, Jamil's men were already leading by three goals.
The scoring resumed soon after the restart as Al-Amna's shot was blocked by Ravanan, alerting Dudu to the loose ball inside the box. The Nigerian striker pounced and doubled his personal tally for the day.
Dudu recorded the season's first hat-trick in the 56th minute after a defence-splitting through-ball from Kromah allowed the striker to hit a clean strike past a hapless Kabir.
Chennai City substitute Mashoor scored from a tight angle two minutes later but East Bengal were too busy at the other end of the field to let the loss of a clean sheet affect their game.
Mehtab flicked Katsumi Yusa's corner into the path of the hat-trick hero Dudu who tapped in his fourth goal of the game in the 61st minute.
Kromah fed Gabriel Fernandes with the ball and the Goan hit the net from 20 yards out to complete the demolition job.