In what was a high octane match at the Sree Kanteerava stadium, Bengaluru FC defeated East Bengal 3-1 on Sunday to take a two-point lead in the title race with just two matches remaining in the season. Eugeneson, Kim Song Yong and Malsawmzuala scored the goals for home side in the match.
After defending champions Mohun Bagan once again squandered their chance to go ahead in the title race, the other two challengers, Bengaluru FC and East Bengal clashed in the Garden city in a bid to stamp their authority as contenders for the title. Both Bengaluru and East Bengal came into the match after drawing their matches in the last round against DSK Shivajians and Mumbai FC respectively.
With John Johnson suspended for one match and Arnab Mondal serving suspension for two, both sides started with a re-jigged back four with left-back Keegan Pereira as centre back for Bengaluru and Bernard Mendy at the back for East Bengal.
The off-field issues involving the supporting staff of both clubs added more masala to the match, which already had a lot riding on it. With the I-League title on the line, the home side made the better start to the match with skipper Sunil Chhetri and North Korean striker Kim Song Yong threatening the East Bengal defence. Playing the 4-4-1-1 formation, the Kolkata club banked on counter attacks to run at the home side's defence with Ranti Martins and Do Dong Hyun, the main players.
Although Bengaluru FC had the better of the match in the first twenty-five minutes, it was the away side that drew the first blood in the 27th minute with a brilliant solo effort from South Korean Do Dong Hyun. The East Bengal player intercepted the ball from Micheal Collins and ran past four Beengaluru FC players before striking a left-footed shot into the goal.
The home crowd was silenced, and the travelling supporters were ecstatic. But, the celebrations didn't last even a minute as Eugeneson Lyngdoh turned up in the opposition box to head in the equalizer. Kim Song Yong curled in a cross from the right, and the Indian international midfielder ran into the middle of the box to produce a reflex header to outfox T P Rehenesh. With the East Bengal midfield non-existent, Collins and Eugeneson had a field day in the first half and ran into the opposition half, whenever they wanted to exploit the space. Kim Song Yong, who looked a live wire in the first forty five, had the chance to put the team in the lead just before the end of the half, but a stunning save from Rehenesh kept things in balance going into the break.
The momentum that Bengaluru had going into the break was nowhere to be seen in the second half with Do Dong Hyun running the show for the away side. The long rangers from the South Korean whizzed past the home side's goal a couple of times before Amrinder Singh was called into action to save the shot from 30 yards. Similar to the first half, a goal once again appeared totally against the run of the play, this time falling in favour of the home side. Kim Song Yong's efforts finally found their way to the goal with the striker heading a cross from the left by Eugeneson to the top right corner.
The home side put the match to bed in the 68th minute with the unlikeliest of the scorers smashing the ball in. Malsawmzuala, the 18-year old defensive midfielder, was the last one to participate in a shot fest near the East Bengal goal, with multiple Bengaluru players taking shots at goal to only find an opposition player. Finally, the ball fell to the youngster, who let one fly from distance, and the power of the shot proved to be too much for Rehenesh, who pushed the ball straight into the roof of his own net. The remaining minutes proved to be a formality with the home side cleverly seeing the time out to take a giant leap in the title race.
With the win, Bengaluru FC took a two-point lead in the title race, with just two matches remaining in the season. Mohun Bagan are second with 27 points, while East Bengal remained third with 24 after the loss.
Sporting Clube de Goa vs Shillong Lajong
In the other match of the day, Sporting Clube de Goa produced a tremendous performance at home to hammer Shillong Lajong 5-2. A brace from Sumeet Passi and goals from Subasish Bose, Mahmoud Al Amenah and Mehrajuddin Wadoo helped the home side, while Penn Orji pulled a couple back for Shillong. Earlier, Lajong had been put on the back foot after Uilliams Souza, who was the last match's hero for Lajong, was sent off early in the first half.
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