East Bengal leave it late to earn dramatic win against TRAU!

East Bengal registered a narrow 2-1 victory over I-League newcomers TRAU FC at the Kalyani Municipality Stadium on Saturday, December 14.

Marcos Jimenez Espada gave the hosts the lead in the 17th minute, before Deepak Devrani equalised in first half stoppage time. Marti Crespi scored a dramatic 89th minute winner to seal the three points for the Red and Golds.

East Bengal made just one change to their line-up, with Alejandro Menendez selecting Ronaldo Augusto Oliveira to replace the suspended Jaime Santos Colado.

TRAU FC, on the contrary, made several changes from the side that lost 0-4 to Mohun Bagan. Ugandan defender Isinde Issac was benched, with Deepak Devrani getting the nod. Nigerian forward Princewell Emeka started up front alongside Khundongbam Singh, in what seemed like a 3-5-2 formation.

With the Kalyani faithful firmly behind them, East Bengal seemed to be in the driving seat in the initial minutes of the game.

Their persistence to overload and make inroads into the final third via crosses and lobbed deliveries almost paid dividends, when in the 14th minute, TRAU goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh came off his line to clear one such delivery by Juan Mera. His attempted clearance was poor, and fell to the feet of Marcos Jimenez Espada, who saw the goal gaping and had a go from 30 yards out, only to be denied by a brilliant goal line clearance by Patrick Uche.

The deadlock was broken in the 17th minute, when Samad Ali Mallick delivered an inch perfect cross to a lurking Espada in the box, and the Spaniard made no mistake in giving East Bengal the lead through a clinical and picturesque forward’s header.

The Red and Golds continued to threaten and almost doubled their lead in the 29th minute when a cross from Oliveira found Pintu Mahata completely unmarked, but he missed from two yards out.

The hosts seemed to be going into half-time with their slender advantage intact but it wasn’t to be, when in the first minute of stoppage time at the end of the first half, a scramble in the East Bengal box was capitalised on by Deepak Devrani, whose outstretched leg deflected a speculative attempt into the back of the net, to score the league newcomers’ first ever I-League goal and put them on level terms with the Kolkata giants.

Alejandro Menendez’s men came out all guns blazing in the second half, but TRAU, still buoyed by their equaliser, showed great resilience to nullify all inroads that East Bengal were stitching together.

In the 64th minute, a beautiful Juan Mera overhead delivery pierced through the TRAU midfield, like a hot knife through butter, and Espada showcased his deft touch, controlling the ball with an exquisite first touch, and had a crack with his left foot from just outside the box, but it was a whisker wide off the first post in what would have otherwise been a spectacular goal.

The game seemed to be heading towards a draw, with TRAU earning a point through a valiant display at the Kalyani. East Bengal kept pushing men forward and in the 89th minute, they were rewarded for their persistence. A late, late scramble in the TRAU box saw an Espada attempt being blocked by a flurry of TRAU shirts, but the ricochet fell to Marti Crespi, and the former La Liga defender made absolutely no mistake in giving East Bengal the lead in the dying minutes of the game.

Four minutes were added, but the visitors failed to pose any real threat as East Bengal held on for the three points. The victory takes the Red and Golds to the summit of the I-League table, while TRAU remain rooted to the bottom.

TRAU will be hosting Real Kashmir FC in their next game on December 22, while awaiting East Bengal on the same day are arch-rivals Mohun Bagan.

Laishram Premjit Singh of TRAU was adjudged to be the Hero of the Match.

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