East Bengal ends winless streak with 1-0 victory over Kerala Blasters

Cleiton Silva scored the winner for the Torchbearers

East Bengal finally ended their winless streak in front of their home fans at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata, as they handed Kerala Blasters a 1-0 defeat in the second match of matchday 18 of the 2022-23 Indian Super League season. Cleiton Silva scored the all-important goal for the Torchbearers.

East Bengal head coach Stephen Constantine made wholesale changes to his starting XI after a disappointing 2-4 defeat against Goa. Ankit Mukherjee, Sarthak Golui, Alex Lima and Jake Jervis were handed starts, with Lalchungnunga, Ivan Gonzalez, Jordan O’Doherty and Sumeet Passi dropping to the bench.

On the other hand, Kerala Blasters came into this fixture on the back of a comfortable 2-0 win over NorthEast United. Quite expectedly, their head coach Ivan Vukomanovic fielded an unaltered starting XI.

East Bengal started the game brightly and had their first chance in only the 3rd minute of the match. After receiving a pass from Naoren Mahesh Singh, Jerry Lalrinzuala launched a dangerous cross into the box for new signing Jervis, but the English marksman ended up fouling a player while trying to meet the cross with his head.

The Tuskers then had their first chance only four minutes later. Uruguayan wizard Adrian Luna delivered a menacing corner, which found the head of Rahul KP. While his shot was saved by the Torchbearers’ custodian, Kamaljit Singh, the rebound struck the arm of VP Suhair. Vukomanovic’s men rallied around the referee for a penalty, but their prayers fell on deaf ears.

In the 21st minute, it was the hosts’ turn to replicate the same scenario. Cleiton tried to head home a cross but ended up on the grass after a slight push from full-back Harmanjot Singh Khabra. Though there was contact, the referee deemed it insignificant to award a penalty.

After sustaining the consistent pressure from the hosts, Kerala Blasters almost opened the crossing in the 36th minute. Young winger Bryce Miranda delivered a cross into the box to find an unlikely recipient in Victor Mongil, but the central defender’s header was directed straight at Kamaljit.

Six minutes later, East Bengal was on the attack again and also had the ball in the back of the net. Jervis struggled to connect with a cross delivered by Mahesh, but still somehow managed to lay it off for Suhair to place his shot past the Tuskers’ goalkeeper, Karanjit Singh. The goal, however, was rightfully chalked off as the winger was in an off-side position when he received the ball.

Constantine’s men ended the half with a flurry of attacks, although none of those reflected a change in the scoreline. Mohamad Rakip’s attempted cross was blocked by one of Vukomanovic’s defenders, but the rebound fell for Cleiton. The Brazilian goal-machine’s first shot was saved by Karanjit, while the rebound yet again fell to his feet. 

However, for the second time in as many seconds, Karanjit proved why experience is highly valued by making a spectacular double-save.

A watchful East Bengal defense numbed Dimitrios Diamantakos’ threat

A watchful East Bengal defense numbed Dimitrios Diamantakos’ threat

The lemon break worked wonders for the visitors, as they had a good start to the second half and almost scored in the 53rd minute. Rahul found Apostolos Giannou with a cross, who managed to keep his shot on target but it was superbly saved by Kamaljit.

The next few minutes saw Kerala Blasters launching one attack after another, but East Bengal finally got back with a chance of their own in the 69th minute when Jervis tried to show his pace in a counter-attack, before being stopped in his tracks by the wily old fox that Mongil is.

However, the shift in power dynamics did pay off, as Constantine’s side finally broke the deadlock in the 77th minute. Mahesh put on the afterburners to make a darting run down the right flank before putting a cross in, which caught Mongil first and Karanjit second, before finally being tucked home by a lurking Cleiton.

But it was not the last action of the game, as the visitors did have a chance to equalize. After receiving a pass from Giannou, Luna found Saurav Mandal in a dangerous area, who took the ball forward before playing it back to the Uruguayan. However, the former RCD Espanyol player could not get any proper connection on his shot.

With this win, East Bengal now has 15 points from 9 matches, though they remain in the ninth position. They will now take on NorthEast United on Wednesday while Kerala Blasters, who remain third with 28 points from 16 games, will be up against Chennaiyin in the Southern Derby on Tuesday.