Kalyani: A 10-man East Bengal weathered a determined bid from Pailan Arrows before nudging out the latter 2-1 in the 19th round of the I-League at Kalyani's Municipal Stadium on Saturday (February 2).
The match was decided in the first half where East Bengal found their goals from Nigerian Edeh Chidi, who scored a penalty, and Lalrindika Ralte and overtook Arrows, who had found the lead first off Alwyn George. The only notable incident in the second half was the ejection of substitute forward Manandeep Singh in the 75th minute, after which East Bengal endured the remaining time with 10 men and conserved the lead to ensure the full quota of points.
It was to the credit of the young Arrows that they added the incendiary to an absorbing action with a goal within couple of minutes from the start. Vishal Kumar showed the utility of a good throw as he hurled the ball deep inside the East Bengal box. Milan Singh, the arrows midfielder, headed the ball along to reach Alwyn George on top of the six-yard box. The Arrows striker made no mistake with his shot that wrapped the East Bengal net.
Stunned by the early setback, East Bengal sought to buck up their offensive and attacked with more purpose in search of the equaliser. East Bengal did not have to wait for long to see the scores levelled as the team earned a penalty in the 5th minute. The Arrows' goalkeeper Soram Porei made the grave mistake of using his hand to stop the East Bengal striker Edeh Chidi, who had got the ball clear of the former and was poised to score. Referee Laiq Khan had no second thought in pointing to the spot, from where Chidi scored to make it 1-1 in the 7th minute.
The inexperience of the exuberant Arrows appeared to work against them as they failed to bolster their defence and conceded their tactical gain to the opponent rather easily. East Bengal maintained the thrust after the equalizer and came close to scoring on another two occasions. Midfielder Cavin Lobo sent his 10th minute attempt wide yards from the goal before Soram made a good save thwarting Chidi's 14th minute effort.
East Bengals' relentless pursuit for the lead paid off in the 32nd minute when Chidi forced his way in to Arrows' box and set up a back-centre. The ball deflected off an Arrows defender and reached Ralte, who made no mistake with his left-footer. The Arrows striker Holicharan Narzary had a chance to find the equaliser in the 44th minute but he could only manage a feeble attempt that was easily gathered by the East Bengal goalkeeper Abhijit Mondal.
Chidi and Lobo were close to enhancing East Bengals' lead in the 57th minute but their successive attempts were brilliantly saved by Soram, who put a strong vigil in the Arrows goal. East Bengal made three changes thereafter introducing their regulars. But the ploy did not prove much as Manandeep, a 63rd minute substitute for Australian Andrew Barisic, made the cardinal error of retaliating and threw the Arrows midfielder Pronoy Halder on the ground grabbing him by his chin. The East Bengal striker was immediately given marching orders though Halder, whose act of elbowing apparently incited Manandeep for his act, was left unpunished by referee Khan.
East Bengal reached the top of the standings with 39 points from 19 matches while Arrows stayed back on 19 points from 18 matches.