A sensational Quess East Bengal FC (QEB) romped home to a fourth victory on the trot producing an outstanding display of team football against Shillong Lajong trouncing them 5-0 at Kolkata’s Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) on Thursday, thanks to a Laldanmawia hattrick and a goal apiece from Jobby Justin and Enrique Esqueda.
The win keeps QEB on track for the first-ever Hero I-League triumph, pushing them up to third on the points table, just one behind second-placed real Kashmir and three shy of leaders Chennai City FC having played one game fewer than both of them.
Shillong stumbled to their 12th defeat in 16 games and after today’s game have conceded 44 goals to remain at the bottom in danger of relegation.
The QEB display on the day was a masterclass and would have sent warning signs to their closest rivals. Each one of their five goals was wonderfully constructed and one could see the efforts put in training by the squad led ably by their Spanish coach Alejandro Menendez Garcia.
Both hosts QEB and visitors Shillong showed respect for others’ attacking prowess going into the game with relatively conservative formations.
Garcia, fast emerging as one of the shrewdest brains to have operated in domestic football, benched Kamalpreet for a more traditional left wing-back in Manoj Mohammad, but clearly left the attacking line open, starting a fit-again Esqueda to partner Jobby Justin in the danger area, with a four-man midfield behind them.
Shillong gaffer Allison Kharsyntiew but naturally fielded an unchanged side, from their prized victory against Churchill Brothers in the previous game, in a 4-5-1 formation.
QEB, however, were on fire from the start and it was clear that Garcia had instructed to sew up the game as early as possible, given Shillong’s attacking prowess. In the end statistics though, with 67% possession, it was all QEB.
After Justin hashed his contact with a free header in the 4th minute off a Danmawia cross, the Mizo winger decided to take things into his own hands four minutes later. Following a Lalrindika ‘Didika’ Ralte delivery from a corner, he rose to head the ball home from close. Garcia’s strategy had worked.
Then Shillong got two chances in two minutes. The first free-kick by Samuel Lyngdoh just sailed over and a minute later, off a QEB defensive lapse, Buam found himself in the clear inside the box, but his first touch let him down.
Those were the only moments of glory for Shillong in the game as moments of magic from the Red & Golds took over after that.
Danmawia Ralte, in the 27th minute, was set on his way by centre-back Borja Gomez, who displayed great vision in playing a long ball from just outside the QEB box anticipating his run.
Danmawia not only made the perfectly-timed run but brought the ball down with an exquisite first touch and then sensing keeper Purbha Lachempa was out of his line, unleashed a left-footed curler on the second touch, to lob the keeper and put the ball into the Shillong net for the second time in the game. It all happened so quickly that it left the adoring home fans gasping in awe.
QEB had just begun though. A minute later, a ball from Tony Dovale found Esqueda and the Mexican lobbed over an onrushing Lachempa into the centre of the box, where Jobby Justin rose above two Shillong defenders to nod home for his ninth goal of the league campaign.
QEB magic chased Shillong till the end of the half with Esqueda this time getting on the scoresheet with another sensational display of footballing skills and judgement.
Didika again delivered from the right and with his left, directed at the Mexican who first with his back to the goal, manoeuvered into position in between two defenders, took that much more time to chest the ball down and instead of using his head which looked the more obvious option, in the same action, tapped in with a volley past a stunned Lachempa.
If ever a team needed a break it was Shillong Lajong as QEB were 4-0 ahead with half the game still left to play.
But there would not be any respite for Shillong as Danmawia sealed his hattrick in the 61st minute thanks to another piece of brilliant team football by QEB.
Kassim Aidara, who also had a great game in the centre of midfield, found substitute Jamie Colado on the right flank. The young Spaniard turned his marker in and drove towards goal, cutting in for Justin who had made a run on his inside.
The Keralite striker showed selflessness and vision for the second time in the game, stepping over for Danmawia further inside and in the clear. The Mizo had a weak first touch but recovered in time to slot the ball home.
The game was done and dusted and such was QEB’s dominance that Shillong could not even muster any corner in the game.