KINGFISHER EAST BENGAL left it late to register all three points in a 1-0 win over Indian Arrows at the Vidyasagar Krirangan (Barasat Stadium) on Sunday (4 February 2018) to pitch-fork arch-rivals Mohun Bagan to the third spot on the league table.
Dudu Omagbemi’s 93rd-minute header dampened the young turks’ efforts to hold them for almost the entire game as the Red and Golds remained afloat in the title hunt, only four points behind current leaders NEROCA FC, who won their game by the same margin earlier today against Gokulam Kerala FC at home.
Both coaches rang in the changes after dropping points in their previous games. Khalid Jamil’s Kingfisher East Bengal who drew 2-2 with Minerva Punjab left out Deepak Kumar as Lalramchullova slotted in at left-back. Ansumana Kromah made his first start, featuring behind the two strikers Jobby Justin and Dudu Omagbemi.
Luis Norton de Matos returned to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. Princeton Rebello and Suresh Singh Wangjam were made to sit on the bench as Amarjit Singh Kiyam returned to the eleven with Abhijit Sarkar in the playmaker’s role.
Kingfisher East Bengal pushed hard from the beginning but the young turks held on brilliantly. Even luck favoured Matos’ boys as Dudu missed three opportunities in the first half itself.
Around the 25th minute, Prabhsukhan Singh Gill won two back-to-back battles with Dudu Omagbemi from point-blank range. First, Cavin Lobo’s diagonal ball was headed in for a bounce in front of the ‘keeper which he caught well.
Then, Katsumi delivered a cross which the Nigerian headed first time and Gill produced another goalkeeping masterclass as he punched the ball out, showing immense reflexes.
Katsumi Yusa did send the ball into the net in the 32nd minute but he was clearly five yards offside. The luck factor did not stop there for the Arrows as Dudu’s shot in the 35th minute ricocheted off the farpost, an effort where Gill had no chance. Even Jitendra Singh did well to clear away the imminent danger from the rebound.
With the half-time mark approaching, Arrows missed two opportunities to break the deadlock. Rahim Ali misjudged the pass from his teammate as the West Bengal-born was unmarked in the box. Rahul Kannoly Praveen had also miscued his effort to send the ball over the bar from a pinpoint cross.
While the introduction of Samad Ali Mallick in the second half injected with some much-needed pace on the right channel for the hosts, Dudu and Jobby Justin failed their teammate who delivered good crosses into the box. While Dudu’s header went astray, Justin was late to react to the delivery which missed everybody in the box in the 73rd minute.
Kingfisher East Bengal kept on pushing the youngsters hard but the defensive unit of the AIFF’s developmental side kept tight.
In two separate instances, the Arrows had the better of the Kingfisher East Bengal backline but misjudgment in the box took the toll as Abhijit Sarkar hit straight into the ‘keeper’s gloves from a Suresh Singh Wangjam counter-attack in the dying embers of the game.
The last action of the day was left for veteran striker Dudu, whose looping header into the net caught Gill off guard as the custodian came off his line from the initial Mohammed Rafique long ball from 40 yards.
With those three points, the Red and Golds increased their season’s tally to 23 and with an away game at Minerva Punjab lined up next, Khalid Jamil’s side remained in the title hunt. As for the Arrows, they remain in the 8th spot with eleven points as they host Churchill Brothers next weekend.