East Bengal romped to their second consecutive win in I-League 2018-19 when they beat Shillong Lajong 3-1 at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Shillong on Thursday.
Joby Justin scored twice (12', 41') before half-time before Rakesh Pradhan (71') pulled one back in the second half. But a miss-pass from Dameki Khongstia led to East Bengal's third as Bidyashagar Singh made no mistake to score a solo goal after latching on to the ball in midfield.
Shillong Lajong coach Alison Kharsyntiew chose to stick to the winning combination and hence retained the same starting line-up that won 2-0 against Aizawl. Neithovilie Chalieu started under the sticks with Rakesh Pradhan, Aibanbha Kupar Dohling, Kenstar Kharshong and Novin Gurung in a four-man backline. Samuel Kynshi and F. Lalrohlua slotted in at the centre of the park with Phrangki Buam and Lalawmpuia Hnamte occupying the left and right flanks respectively. Mahesh Singh and Samuel Lalmuanpuia had the responsibility of scoring the goal upfront.
On the other hand, East Bengal coach Alejandro Menendez made a single change to the line-up that won 2-0 against NEROCA as Brandon Vanlalremdika got the nod ahead of Yami Longvah.
For East Bengal Rakshit Dagar started in goal with a back-four of Ramlal Chullova, Jhonny Acosta, Borja Perez and Manoj Mohammad. Kamalpreet Singh and Larindika Ralte started in midfield with Danmawia Ralte and Brandon on the wings. Jobby Justin and Enrique Esqueda were the two strikers leading the attack.
Lajong started dominating possession right from the first whistle and they looked menacing in their build-up play from midfield.
But against the run of play East Bengal got their noses in front in the 12th minute when Jobby Justin executed a textbook header from a free-kick floated in by Lalrindika Ralte.
After conceding Lajong increased their attacking intensity and could have got the leveller in the 22nd minute. Mahesh was stopped in his tracks by Brandon but the loose ball fell for Hnamte who shot at goal. Dagar did enough to see the ball away with a punch but Buam found the rebound on his feet who pulled the trigger but his effort sailed over the crossbar.
Lajong continued to create chances but were not quite able to spin out a deicsive final ball as East Bengal defenders were at the top of their game.
On the 41st minute mark, Jobby scored his second after he was set up by Esqueda inside the box. The striker was left unmarked and Esqueda dished out a perfect delivery for him to volley past Chalieu.
Lajong came agonisingly close to pull one back immediately after the lemon break when Samuel's free-kick was headed towards goal. Dagar did well to keep it out but the rebound fell for Lyngdoh who failed to find the net from sniffing distance of goal.
Although they did halve the difference when Pradhan's glancing header nestled inside the net from a flag-kick taken by Samuel, their retaliation received a major blow when Khongstia gave away the ball in midfield to Bidyasagar. The East Bengal academy product ran down the middle and calmly slotted past the keepr to seal the three points for his team.
Lajong looked threatening in set-pieces and Aiban could have scored the second for his side in the dying embers of the game only if he had kept his header on target from another corner.
With this win East Bengal have made a solid start to their league campaign as they now go top of the pile. They will next face Chennai City at home after a long lay-off on November 13.
Whereas Shillong Lajong will hit the road after two games at home when they will be up against Indian Arrows on November 5.