East Bengal FC defeated Bengaluru FC 2-1 in the Indian Super League (ISL) clash at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Wednesday.
Cleiton Silva scored either side of a Javier Hernandez equaliser to help East Bengal get their first-ever win in the ISL 2022-23 at their home stadium.
Before the start though, there was a sense of loss in the cold December air in Kolkata. The King had passed away.
Both teams paid their tributes ahead of the game for Pele, who died aged 82 at Sao Paulo’s Albert Einstein hospital on Thursday. A memorial was set up at the Saltlake Stadium entrance as the East Bengal and Bengaluru players and staff paid their respects to the legend. Prior to kick-off, everyone in the stadium including the players observed a minute’s silence.
As for the match itself, it began on a hurried note with BFC and EBFC players both going hard for an early lead.
The first real chance of the match came in the fourth minute when Suresh Wangjam lost possession to Alex Lima, who darted into the box and took a shot from distance with defenders closing in on him. His effort took a deflection as it flew over the bar.
Alex Lima again set things running from mid-field, releasing Naorem Singh on the left, who ran in close by the by-line and beat his marker. He managed to send in a dinked cross into the six-yard box but it was cleared away promptly by the BFC defenders.
In the 13th minute, it was Naorem’s turn to send in the cross only for Cleiton Silva to direct his effort straight at Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
BFC debutant Pablo Perez got the ball in midfield and after a brief run at the defence, slipped in Roy Krishna in behind. His powerful shot though was saved by another debutant in the EBFC goal, Suvam Sen in the 26th minute.
East Bengal had settled down into a lull in defence as Roy Krishna raced down the right, past Lalchungnunga, in the 34th minute as his shot only ruffled the side netting.
East Bengal got the lead in the 39th minute after a superb ball from mid-field released VP Suhair down the right. He raced into the box but as soon as it seemed he had advanced the ball beyond his reach, he pulled it back with quick feet which meant Roshan Singh’s trailing arm after a dive to deter a cross hit the ball. Cleiton stepped up to slot the ball to the right of Gurpreet, who went the other way, from the penalty spot.
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Either team looked threatening to score in the opening exchanges after the restart but neither could do enough to disturb the keeper.
Javier Hernandez changed all that in the 55th minute as he thumped a cutback from Roy Krishna as he had dragged Ivan Gonzalez out of position to leave the No. 10 unmarked, whose side-footed strike flew past a helpless Suvam Sen.
The pressure from Bengaluru was unrelenting as Sunil Chhetri waded his way through a bunch of EBFC defenders to lay off Roy Krishna on the right. While attempting a one-two with Chhetri, Krishna had the ball snatched away from him by the EBFC players in the 63rd.
At the 75th-minute mark, Javier Hernandez whipped in a dangerous corner as the clearance fell to the feet of Rohit Kumar, whose left-footed half-volley was probably curling in but Suvam did not take any chance in the EBFC goal.
On either side of the 90-minute mark, there was a penalty shout after Roy Krishna was felled inside the box but the referee was unmoved. Shiva Shakti too had a goalmouth effort saved by Suvam.
As the clock ticked closer to full time, the game started to get stretched with players tiring and the defensive shapes going for a toss.
Alan Costa made an error in judgement as he illegally brought down Jordan O’Doherty just outside the box. Cleiton Silva stepped up and set the ball down, took a few paces back and struck the ball. Time seemed to have stopped as the Red and Gold brigade held their breath. Gurpreet dived and failed to stop the ball as it curled into the top corner and spun tangled in the netted mesh.
A Brazilian sporting the number 10 on his back helped East Bengal FC register their first win at their home ground of Saltlake stadium in the Indian Super League on the last matchday of 2022.
Sometimes magic is predestined.
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