East Bengal have notched their first win of the Federation Cup after defeating Chennai CIty FC 2-0 at the Barabati stadium in Odisha on Tuesday.
Twin strikes from Robin Singh (45') and (75'), meant that the Reds and Golds now lead Group A, with four points in hand. However, the result from Aizawl's clash with Churchill Brothers later this day could change their position. Nonetheless, Ranjan Chaudhuri and co. look comfortable to proceed ahead in the tournament whereas Chennai City's chances of surviving have lowered.
The Southerners kick-started the tie in a 4-3-3 formation which saw Abhishek Das, Echezona Anyichie, Dharmaraj Ravanan and Debabrata Roy form the defensive line. 29-year-old Darren Caldeira made his way in the midfield as Dhanpal Ganesh was benched by coach V Soundararajan. Centre forward Soosai Raj and Brazilian Charles De Souza took charge of the proceedings up-front.
As for the Kolkata side, Nikhil Poojary was dropped from the starting XI as Robin Singh made his way into the squad, teaming up with Willis Plaza up top. The heavyweights opted for a 4-2-3-1 shape as Rowllin Borges and Mehtab Hossain formed the double pivot.
The first half was a cagey affair which saw both the teams trying to create chances through the middle of the park. The South Indian side started brightly with Debabrata Roy and Edwin Vanspaul combining well down the left. The Reds and Golds didn’t sit quiet either as they came up with strong replies to the V Soundararajn's army's efforts.
In the 10th minute, a cross from the right saw Tata Football Academy product, Narayan Das, head the ball on target but his attempt was blocked by his own team-mate Bikash Jairu.
Just four minutes later, Robin Singh had a chance on the goal as he came up with a brilliant half-volley but a flying Karanjit Singh did well to palm away the danger.
The next 20 minutes saw both sides try hard to get the opening goal but it was the Kolkata outfit which succeeded moments before the half-time whistle.
In the 45th minute, a careless clearance from Dharmaraj Ravanan saw Willis Plaza storm into the box and get the better of the former Churchill Brothers player. The onrushing Trinidadian then passed the ball to birthday boy Robin Singh was free inside the box and had space available to him, with Karanjit Singh off his line. The former Bengaluru FC striker made no mistake in sending the ball into the net with a toe poke.
The second half saw urgency being shown from the side from the Coromandel coast as they strived hard to grab the all-important equalizer. However, the lack of clinical finishing meant that their wait continued.
It was in the 75th minute that the team from Chennai crumbled. It was Cavin Lobo of East Bengal who stood up for a free-kick and as his ball reached the box, Chennai skipper Dharmaraj Ravanan's hand got in the way of the delivery. Following this, the former Churchill Brothers player was booked for a handball incident which resulted in a penalty being awarded to the United Breweries Group-owned side. It was Robin Singh who took charge of the set piece and the birthday boy got the better of Karanjit Singh again as he stormed the delivery into the goal.
The goal doubled the lead for Gurwinder Singh and co. and eventually sealed the victory for them. The 0-2 result meant that East Bengal now have four points in their pocket and look comfortable to qualify for the semi-finals whereas Chennai City are no longer in contention to progress further.