East Bengal downed local rival Mohammedan Sporting 3-1 in a 24th round encounter of the I-League at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Saturday to keep its title hopes alive.
A goal each from Ryuji Sueoka, Joaquim Abranches and Edeh Chidi helped East Bengal maintain the winning momentum, which it had gained defeating Sporting Clube de Goa at the same venue in the previous round. Joshimar da Silva found the only reply for Mohammedan Sporting.
Sueoka put East Bengal on the victory path, finding the target in the 10th minute when defender Abhishek Das came on the overlap to set the former up with the opportunity. The Japanese midfielder made no mistake as he slammed his attempt past Mohammedan Sporting goalkeeper Luis Baretto.
Winger Abranches came good in the East Bengal attack in the 40th minute as he latched on to a long floater from defender Raju Gaikwad and made the most of confusion between Barreto and Syed Rahim Nabi in the rival box.
After conceding the second goal, Mohammedan Sporting responded immediately and reduced the margin through Joshimar, who nodded home a cross from Nirmal Chetri.
Mohammedan Sporting worked hard for the equaliser after the interval but it was East Bengal which found another goal to take the match away from its opponent. Wing-back Robert Lalthlamuana essayed a long ball towards Sueoka deep inside the Mohammedan Sporting territory. The Japanese, sensing himself to be off-side, stepped aside as Chidi came from behind to score past a hapless Barreto in the 63rd minute.
The third goal helped Edeh Chidi become the fifth entrant to the 100-goal club in the history of the National Football League/ I-League combined. The Nigerian joined Ranti Martins (184 goals), Onyeka Okolie Odafa (165), Yusif Yakubu (142) and Jose Ramirez Barreto (101).
With 34 points from 20 matches, East Bengal closed the gap with Bengaluru FC to just four points while Mohammedan Sporting’s relegation clouds deepened as it now has only 18 points from 21 matches and is placed at the bottom of the table.
The result: East Bengal 3 (Ryuji Sueoka 10, Joaquim Abranches 40, Edeh Chidi 63) bt Mohammedan Sporting 1 (Josimar da Silva 41).