A 28th minute strike from Chidi Edeh helped East Bengal pocket full three points against Pune FC as they won 1-0, at the Saltlake Stadium on Monday.
Though Chidi scored the all-important goal for the home side, it was Abhijit Mondal who was the star of the day. His heroics under the bar helped East Bengal resist a late charge from Pune.
The home side spent a great period of time addressing their own defensive worries after Nigerian striker had given it the decisive lead.
In fetching the win East Bengal followed the diktat of their astute English coach Trevor James Morgan, who has always insisted on the objective of winning a match no matter by what manner or style it is gained.
Shorn of any attractiveness in its approach, the East Bengal eked out the full quota of points in one of the most pedestrian ways ever seen. Pune FC, in contrast, showed good organisation but their efforts to find the equaliser remained abortive.
Pune FC’s Izumi Arata could well have given a different start to the encounter had he been more accurate in his 8th minute attempt, that came close from the East Bengal goal.
The visitor had a clear dominance in the first quarter of the action but poor marksmanship foiled its efforts. This indication continued to spoil the team’s chances for the remainder of the tournament.
East Bengal took charge of the proceedings in the 20th minute when its midfielder Orji Penn set up striker Manandeep Singh with a neat back-centre that the latter fluffed with a poor connection.
The next move in the 28th minute got East Bengal the break. Chidi showed a fine sense of opportunism when he received an unlikely assist – coming from Pune FC’s Srikanth Ramu whose defensive clearance rebounded off a colleague to reach the East Bengal striker – and foxed the opposition custodian Shahinlal Meloy with an inside-out punch at the far end.
Chidi and Manandeep had two more opportunities to enhance the lead but could not reproduce the finishing that gave the home side the lead.
Pune FC stung back with a series of raids in the second half but the equaliser refused to come as experienced Abhijit made brilliant saves to spoil at least three spectacular attempts from the former’s India striker Jeje Lalpekhlua.
Jeje’s first attempt, a left-footed angular shot in the 52nd minute, came off Abhijit’s outstretched foot while the latter dived full length to clear the Pune FC striker’s second attempt in the 72nd minute.
Appearing like a though reader the East Bengal custodian came in the way again when Jeje fired a nice volley on a half-turn in the 76th minute. Pune’s other striker James Moga also failed to break the jinx seeing his 65th minute shot going wide hitting the crosspiece.
East Bengal, who will meet defending champion and the current leader Dempo in the next round at the same venue, tallied seven points from three while Pune FC remained on six points after three rounds.
(AIFF Press Release)