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I-League 2017-18: ‘Fantastic Four’ Dudu brings Red & Golds back on track

IT WAS a complete 7-1 annihilation of Chennai City at the hands of East Bengal on Saturday led by Dudu Omagbemi’s quartet of goals (32′, 49′, 56′ and 61′) coupled with goals from Mahmoud Al Amna (20′) and Gabriel Fernandes (84′) kept them afloat in the title hunt. For Chennai City, Dharmaraj Ravanan’s own goal in the 23rd minute was compensated by a consolation from Mashoor Shereef Thangalakath (59′) and the Southerners have to do a quick recovery to stay safe from getting relegated.

A 2-1 loss to Gokulam Kerala FC had four casualties as Khalid Jamil made four changes. Gurwinder Singh for Arnab Mondal was an enforced one but Samad Ali Mallick, Yami Longvah and Laldanmawia Ralte were left out. Mehtab Singh and Brandon Vanlalremdika were ushered in as Ansumana Kromah made his first start for the Red and Golds.

The hints of fireworks began early for the home side. Kromah and Al Amna were crowded in the opposition box after Mehtab Singh did well to send in a square but the Chennai defence held on well.

That did not remain for long as backline cracked for good in the 20th minute. Brandon chased Michael Soosairaj in his own half to intercept and then Lalramchullova’s long ball for Mahmoud Al Amna saw Veniamin Shumeiko and Edwin Vanspaul falter. Goalkeeper Kabir Thaufiq did his best to make a double save but in the end, the Syrian came out on top to break the deadlock in the third attempt.

Three minutes later, there was more misery for the Coimbatore-based side. Al Amna released Chullova on the left and the former Aizawl FC man cut in to send a low-cross only for India international Dharmaraj Ravanan to send the ball into his own net.

V. Soundararajan refused to be on the backfoot after shipping in two goals as he sacrificed winger Antony Beautin for an extra striker in Jean-Michael Joachim.

However, that only played to the detriment of the side looking to move up the table as defensive errors cost Soundararajan again. Mehtab Singh, a lively addition on the right flank sent a diagonal ball and Dudu Omagbemi slotted it into an empty net with the ‘keeper off his line.

After the change of ends, the story was all the same as the Nigerian striker brought up his hat-trick with two goals inside seven minutes, making the scoreline 5-0 with Dharmaraj Ravana being at fault for both of them. Meanwhile, it was the first hat-trick in this Hero I-League season.

The introduction of Mashoor Shereef Thangalakath worked wonders for the team wearing sky blue as he scored the consolation goal of the afternoon within sixty seconds of him being on the pitch. However, Dudu replied back in another couple of minutes to stem any sort of comeback hopes from Chennai City.

Ansumana Kromah, who set up a couple of goals tried his luck but did not find much of it when it came to finding the back of the net. He, though, helped out Gabriel Fernandes with an assist, for the Goan’s first goal of the season in only his first appearance at home this Hero I-League season.

With the biggest victory of the season, Kingfisher East Bengal leapfrog Minerva Punjab to go second on the table. Both teams are on 29 points but the Kolkata side even though having played a game more edge out on head-to-head record.

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