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I-League 2018-19: Toni Dovale shows early promise as East Bengal ease past Indian Arrows

11:34 PM EST 1/8/19
Indian Arrow vs East Bengal
Lalram Chullova’s red card ahead of the Chennai City FC match is a matter of concern for the East Bengal coach…

East Bengal had it easy against Floyd Pinto’s Indian Arrows in their 10th I-League 2018/19 match on Tuesday as they beat the India colts 2-1 at the Kalinga Stadium. Jobby Justin once again was on target to guide East Bengal to an important away win.

For the first time this season, Alejandro Menendez could field all five foreigners together. Former Bengaluru FC midfielder Antonio Rodriguez Dovale made his debut in the I-League for the Red and Golds.

Floyd Pinto, aware of the quality in the East Bengal side, had set his strategy accordingly. He went into an ultra-defensive mode right from the beginning with Jitendra Singh, Anwar Ali and Deepak Tangri in the three-man central defence supported by full-backs Asish Rai and Sanjeev Stalin.

The India colts focused on pressing in their own half trying to negate the East Bengal attacks before they could reach the final third. They were looking to counter-attack, utilising the pace of Rahul KP and Boris Singh.

It took East Bengal 26 minutes to finally find a solution and break the Arrows’ marking. Jaime Santos Colado received the ball from a throw-in inside the box and curled it in the middle. Laldanmawia Ralte was in position and he volleyed the ball into the back of the net.

It was unusual (or inexperience) from the Indian Arrows defenders to try an offside-trap for a throw-in! Jaime received the pass with plenty of free space in front of him.

The real action began in the second half when the visitors lost right-back Lalram Chullova to an unfortunate red card. Chullova displayed immaturity by unnecessarily headbutting an opposition player. He should have kept in mind that the team’s next game is against Chennai City which is possibly going to be the most crucial match of the season for his team. 

A 10-man East Bengal did not lose heart and instead, Jobby Justin scored his seventh goal of the season to further increase his team’s lead. The move was beautifully orchestrated by new recruit Dovale who was a hit on his debut.

Dovale’s precision, movement with the ball and his ability make space was a treat to watch for the East Bengal loyalists. The 28-year-old Spaniard has shown early promise and now has to live up to it.

If Dovale’s performance assured the fans then Chullova’s absence will be a cause of worry for the East Bengal boss. Their bench strength has been extremely poor this season which will be worrisome ahead of the potential title-decider against Chennai on January 14.

The Kolkata giants are slowly shaping up well under the tutelage of former Real Madrid Castilla coach. Their game has improved since the start of the league and is expected to gain further momentum in the second half of the season.