I-League 2018-19: Enrique Esqueda fuels East Bengal's title aspirations with slender win over Minerva
I-League media
The Kolkata giants march on to final matchday with league title in sight...

East Bengal registered a hard fought 1-0 victory over Minerva Punjab on Sunday afternoon at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula.

After a goalless first half, it was Enrique Esqueda who pierced the net in the 75th minute to hand East Bengal the much needed three points in the context of the 2018-19 I-League title race.

Minerva Punjab coach Sachin Badhade made three alterations to his side from their 1-0 win over NEROCA in their previous match. Arashpreet Singh returned under the sticks whereas Sreyas V.G. and Moinuddin Khan replaced Makan Chothe and Prabhjot Singh respectively.

On the other hand, Alejandro Menendez made two changes in the form of Salam Ranjan Singh and Toni Dovale replacing the suspended Borja Gomez and Brandon Vanlalremdika.

East Bengal started the match on the front foot as they kept piling pressure in the attacking third. The hosts sat deep inside their half and did well to hold their fort.

Just after the half-hour mark and against the run of play, Minerva could have found the opener when Juan Quero slipped past Lalram Chullova before taking aim at goal. But, his shot bounced off the woodwork, much to the relief of the travelling fans.

Minerva Punjab vs East Bengal

Ten minutes later, it was East Bengal who suffered the same fate when Jaime Santos' header from close range struck the crosspiece after the Spaniard timed his jump to perfection to reach a cross floated in by Toni Dovale.

The match opened up significantly in the second half with both sides willing to take more risks in search of the opening goal.

Arshdeep was called into action in the very first minute after resumption when Esqueda found Danmawia with an exquisite ball. The winger rifled in a shot but the keeper was equal to the task to keep the scoreboard unchanged.

Quero and former East Bengal player Mahmoud Al-Amna showed a good understanding between them as they were exchanging the ball quite well to unlock a gritty East Bengal defence. But their inability to produce a quality final ball did not help their cause.

Minerva Punjab vs East Bengal

In the 75th minute, Danmawia Ralte's header from outside the box set up Esqueda. The Mexican allowed the ball to bounce once and then volleyed past Arshdeep to score the winner.

In the dying minutes, Kalif Alhassan tested Dgar with a curling free-kick but the keeper came out unscathed as he punched it out of danger.

East Bengal will now travel to Khozikode to face Gokulam Kerala on March 9 whereas Minerva will be up against the league leaders at the same time in what would be a title deciding fixture.

Comments ()