Kolkata: East Bengal recorded their second straight win beating Shillong Lajong 3-1 in an I-League football tie at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here on Thursday.
East Bengal rode on a first half-brace by Kerala striker Jobby Justin and a second-half strike from Bidyasagar Singh to thwart a spirited Shillong side, who got one back in the second half through left wing back Rakesh Pradhan. Shillong’s football remained attractive, dominating and flowing, but the inexperience of having nine under-22 players in their eleven showed up eventually, after a fluent 2-0 win against Aizawl FC at home last week in their opening game.
East Bengal go on top of the league standings with two crucial away wins to kick-off their campaign, after having beaten Neroca 2-0. Alison Kharsyntiew, the Shillong coach, began with an unchanged starting XI while East Bengal’s Spanish coach Alejandro Menendez Garcia chose to begin with Brandon Vanlalremdika in midfield in place of Yomi Longwah, who had started in their opening encounter.
Shillong were on the ball from the word go as captain Samuel Lalmuanpuia’s super strike off a free-kick in the danger zone outside the box, ricocheted off the East Bengal woodwork with goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar soundly beaten.
Quite against the run of play though, it was East Bengal who took an early lead. From Lalrindika Ralte’s left-footed free-kick, Kerala frontman Jobby Justin leapt up to connect with a perfectly placed and timed header, which beat Neithovilie Chalieu in the Shillong goal all ends up.
The goal spurred the Shillong boys even further and they put the East Bengal side under sustained pressure with a wave of attacks. Samuel Lyngdoh’s crisp strike from 25 yards out in the 23rd minute was blocked by Dagar and captain Lalmuanpuia’s punch after Kamalpreet had given the ball away inside the East Bengal half. There was a spell when Shillong forced three corners in the space of 15 minutes but could not find the equaliser.
It was then in the 41st minute when Jobby helped East Bengal double the lead from a counter attack. Mexican Enrique Esqueda who had a relatively quiet game, entered the box and his attempted cross hit a Lajong defender and looped up into the box.
Jobby rose first to head the ball down and it deflected off a Lajong defender towards Esqueda again who promptly lobbed back to Jobby who volleyed to beat Neitho on the bounce and lodge the ball into the Lajong net.
After the lemon break, Shillong carried on with their attacking forays. Samuel Lyngdoh created and missed the most for Shillong today but he overall had a good game. In between East Bengal missed a couple of chances through Brandon and Laldanmawia Ralte.
In the 71st minute, Shillong got a goal back when the tireless left wing-back Rakesh Pradhan rose to connect a perfect header off a Hnamte corner. Shillong’s joy was shortlived however as East Bengal struck again a couple of minutes later through substitute Bidyasagar Singh.
The goal, in fact, involved two substitutes prominently. Shillong’s Dameki, who had come on just before the Shillong corner which led to their goal, blundered with a back pass inside his own half.
Bidyasagar latched on to the ball and unleashed a run towards the box in the clear. Once inside, he opened up his body and with a sublime right-footed curler, beat Neitho and found the back of the net.
Shillong kept on pressing as Samuel Lyngdoh’s freakish shot from a distance was tipped by Dagar to kiss the East Bengal bar and go out for a corner. Alison even brought on Bonison to replace Hnamte in the 91st minute, but it was East Bengal’s day and they left the field with a full three points.