Cleiton Silva’s brace helps East Bengal do the double against Bengaluru

Cleiton Silva’s last-minute freekick downed Bengaluru

Despite having had a poor journey so far, East Bengal had a good end to their year as they handed Bengaluru a 2-1 defeat in the last 2022 match of the 2022-23 Indian Super League. Cleiton Silva scored a brace for the Torchbearers, while Javi Hernandez was the lone goal-scorer for the Blues.

East Bengal head coach Stephen Constantine made three changes to his starting XI which lost 0-3 against Mumbai City. Kamaljit Singh, Charalampos Kyriakou, and Thongkhosiem Haokip made way for Suvam Sen, Jordan O’Doherty, and Alex Lima respectively.

On the other hand, Bengaluru head coach Simon Grayson made a couple of changes to the team which lost 0-3 against Hyderabad. Alan Costa and Pablo Perez were included in the starting XI, with Aleksandar Jovanovic and Danish Farooq dropping to the bench.

It seemed that the hosts had stepped on the pitch with a purpose as they had the better start, with the first chance coming in the 4th minute. Suresh Singh Wangjam lost possession in a dangerous position, and Lima tried to capitalize on it by launching a shot. However, one of Grayson’s defenders saved the day for the Blues.

The Brazilian midfielder did well in his role as a striker, as six minutes later, he played a good pass for Naorem Mahesh Singh but the latter’s cross could not find a player in red and gold. However, Naorem did put in an accurate cross just three minutes later, but Silva’s header was safely collected by the Blues custodian, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.

It took 26 minutes for the visitors to have their first chance in the match. New signing Perez showed his class by playing a defense-splitting pass for Roy Krishna, who then did well to get his shot in, but an acrobatic Sen saved it.

That attack helped the Blues return to the game as they had another opportunity in the 35th minute, Fijian goal-machine Krishna was the focal point of attraction this time around as well, but his shot struck the side netting.

Those missed opportunities came back to haunt Bengaluru, as East Bengal opened the scoring in the 39th minute. Unable to stop VP Suhair, Roshan Naorem ended up bringing the striker down inside the box, resulting in a penalty. Former Blues striker Silva made absolutely no mistakes from the spot.

Bengaluru had the chance of restoring parity only two minutes later. Javi launched a delightful ball into the box from a setpiece, but Costa could not get any proper connection on it.

East Bengal started the second half right from where they left the first, with the first chance coming in the 47th minute. Ankit Mukherjee launched a cross for Suhair, but having earned his team a penalty earlier, the winger could not get his name on the scoresheet.

The Blues had another opportunity of levelling the score in the 54th minute. Krishna did well to thread a pass for Sunil Chhetri, who also was slick enough to beat his marker, but not precise enough to find the back of the net.

However, the veteran did not have to lament his miss for long as the equalizer arrived at the very next minute. After gaining possession, Javi played a good pass for Krishna, who beat his marker without much difficulty. The striker then showed his selfless side by finding Javi again with a pass. The Spaniard then had the simplest of tasks of tucking it into an empty net and making the scoreline 1-1.

Naorem Mahesh Singh had a fantastic outing for East Bengal

Naorem Mahesh Singh had a fantastic outing for East Bengal

The goal turned out to be a disruptor in terms of East Bengal’s grasp on the game, as the Blues bounced back. Grayson’s team could have easily taken the lead in the 73rd minute, had it not been for Sen. After dispossessing Jordan in midfield, Rohit Kumar played a forward pass for Chhetri. However, despite the odds beings stacked against him, East Bengal’s goalkeeper put in a sensational save.

The Blues had another gilt-edged chance two minutes later, and Sen was called to action again. Javi’s delivery from the corner found Rohit, whose volley was brilliantly saved by the goalkeeper who was playing his first match of the season.

Against the run of play, the Torchbearers found themselves on the end of a chance in the 83rd minute. Yet another sloppy play from the visitors allowed Silva to be one-on-one with Gurpreet, but the Brazilian could not keep his shot on target.

The goal eventually arrived in the 92nd minute, with Silva redeeming himself spectacularly. Danish brought down Jordan outside the box, and from the free-kick, Silva launched a delightful shot to beat both the wall and Gurpreet.

With this win, East Bengal climbed to 8th position in the standings, with 10 points from 11 matches. They will now take on Odisha on the first Saturday of the 2023 calendar year while Bengaluru, placed 9th with 10 points, will face NorthEast United on the first Friday of the year.