East Bengal injected hope back into their home fans at the Barasat Stadium, with a 2-0 win over newly promoted side Aizawl FC, as new recruit Bernard Mendy managed to get on the scoresheet on his debut.
For large portions of the match, East Bengal were egged on by an edgy crowd, who were still reeling from the 1-0 home defeat at the hand of fellow title contenders Bengaluru FC.
The game itself started off on a rather dull note, with former France right back Mendy playing in central midfield alongside Mehtab Hossain. The Frenchman was constantly looking to play the box-to-box role, and even stayed up on occasions, as a target for the long aerial balls andcrosses.
Sabeeth Sathyan started up top, alongside Ranti Martins, but looked quite ineffective, except for a couple of areas on the pitch. East Bengal would also be worried about their South Korean star Do Dong-Hyun’s form, as he had yet another indifferent match.
However, Bikash Jairu had another good day on the pitch. He played on the left flank in the first half, and on the right flank in he second. However, he troubled the Aizawl defenders in both the halves, making his darting runs.
Jairu had put Ranti Martins through on goal in the first half itself, with a cross to the unguarded far post, but the angle seemed too tight for the Nigerian striker, as his feeble shot was saved by Aizawl FC goalkeeper Soram Anganba.
The Lal Holud brigade almost went into the lead in the first half, as Ranti turned in a lose ball that ensued from a Do Dong corner. However, the striker was adjudged offside, as the relatively large Azawl travelling contingent heaved a sigh of relief.
In the second half, East Bengal coach Biswajit Bhattacharjee brought on Cavin Lobo in place of Sabeeth, as the former took up the midfield role beside Mehtab, while Mendy moved up top alongside Ranti. This seemed to have done the trick, as East Bengal started creating better chances.
Do Dong was also taken off in the second half as well, and the Sout Korean did not seem happy at this decision by his coach. However, the Red and Golds started making more concentrated attacks, with Lobo pulling the strings from the midfield, and Mendy playing the targetman up front.
However, the first goal of the match was scored by the diminutive Jairu, as he delicately headed in a cross from Joachim Abranches, sending the Lal Holud stand into delirium.
The home side landed a one-two sucker punch on Aizawl FC, as their star debutant Mendy headed in a cross by Lobo in the 74th minute.
Aizawl FC seemed to have tired a bit at the end of the second half, as they tried to get one goal back. However, East Bengal sat back and invited the pressure, only to play on the counter. This worked quite well for them, as they could have scored a couple of more goals in the last 10 minutes. Both Mendy and Ranti were through one-on-one with Anganba, but failed to convert the chances.
This win takes East Bengal up to the second position on he I-League table, just one point behind league leaders Bengaluru FC. However, the Red and Golds have played one match more than Bengaluru. Even more danger to East Bengal’s spot are arch rivals Mohun Bagan, who are just one point behind Bhattacharjee’s men, having played two games less.
Image Courtesy: I-League Media
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