Centenary club East Bengal broke a three-game losing streak, including a derby loss, to bounce right back into contention for the I-League title with a confident 2-0 away victory over defending champions Chennai City FC on Saturday evening.
Second-half goals by Spanish attackers Marcos Jimenez de la Espada and Hero of the Match Jaime Santos Colado at the Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore brought home a well-deserved victory.
East Bengal hardly put a foot wrong on the day with stand-in coach Bastab Roy setting the ball rolling with three changes which paid rich dividends in the game. Mirshad got his first game of the season under the East Bengal bar and had a very good day in the office, while Asheer Akhtar in the heart of the defence built up on the potential he had already shown earlier in the league.
Mizo winger Brandon Vanlalremdika also got a first start of the season and before he was replaced in the 66th minute, should have had at least two goals to his name. Marti Crespi, Pintu Mahata and Lalthuammawia Ralte were the ones to miss out.
Akbar Nawas also made three changes to his starting XI, bringing in young Swiss signing Jan Mazangu, Pravitto Raju and Shem Marton on for Tarif Akhand, Ajith Kumar and Sriram.
The first chance of the game went to Chennai City FC’s Spanish striker Adolfo ‘Fito’ Araujo, one of the three he would get in the entire game. While Chennai City FC dominated possession in the first half, East Bengal clearly had far better chances to score, one of them a missed penalty by Colado after the ball was handled inside the box. Nauzet Santana brought off a first of many good saves in goal on the day.
At least on three other occassions in the half, East Bengal found themselves one-on-one with the keeper but each time came up with newer ways to miss. Brandon missed a couple, one off a wonderful Espada through ball on a East Bengal counter with Santana again coming out brilliantly to thwart the dimunitive Mizo.
Colado, in the 35th minute, inexplicably saw his lob sail over Santana and the crossbar and minutes later Juan Mera missed another golden opportunity to score for East Bengal.
The half ended goalless but East Bengal were clearly in the ascendancy and it bore fruit in the second session.
Brandon hit the post again in the 58th minute, this time, after curling one past Eslava from close range. That would be his last effort of the game as newly signed Liberian frontman Ansumana Kromah replaced him.
East Bengal finally broke through in the 68th minute with Kromah having an immediate impact. He played Colado into the box on the right, and the Spaniard broke away towards the goal line and crossed for Espada to tap it in expertly from close. It was a typical poacher’s goal and Espada took his tally to five for the season.
The Red and Golds then got a second penalty, Jishnu Balakrishnan being adjudged to have brought Colado down in the box. East Bengal and Colado were not to be denied a second time and closed out on a much-needed victory. They now move right upto fourth with 11 points from eight games while Chennai City FC remain on eighth with eight points from seven.