Kingfisher East Bengal kept its title hopes alive after outclassing Chirag United Kerala by the odd goal in seven (4-3) in a 25th round encounter of the I-League here at the Salt Lake Stadium on Monday.

East Bengal squandered a 2-0 lead — coming off a goal each from Orji Penn and Tolgay Ozbey — as David Sunday fired a hat-trick to give United Kerala the advantage midway through the match.

Tolgay again scored for the host to restore parity before Robin Singh found a late winner to ensure full points for East Bengal.

The match saw an exciting encounter with the two opponents aiming the win for different reasons. While the host looked to remain in the hunt for the title which has eluded it for the last eight seasons, United Kerala fought to avoid relegation from the elite stage of the tournament.

The host started on a breezy note and found two quick goals to stamp its authority early in the match. Nigerian midfielder Penn made the most of a slip from the United Kerala custodian Sharath Kuniyil, who fumbled trying to block a Tolgay attempt, to put East Bengal ahead in the 24th minute. Tolgay doubled the lead on a fine solo effort in the 32nd minute.

United Kerala made a remarkable comeback hereafter riding on the form of its Nigerian striker David Sunday. The United Kerala attacker foxed couple of East Bengal defenders before finding the net in the 37th minute.

With the host defence still struggling to settle down, Sunday found the equaliser in the 41st minute (2-2) and completed his hat-trick in the 48th minute with an angular finish from the top of the East Bengal box to have United Kerala sensing a win (3-2).

But the host reacted more energetically and restored parity in the 54th minute when Tolgay found the net following a corner (3-3). Robin completed the scoring process in the 77th minute to hoist East Bengal to the second position in the current league standings.

East Bengal, which plays current league leader Dempo SC next, tallied 44 points from 23 matches while United Kerala continued in the relegation zone with 17 points from 23 matches.

The result: East Bengal 4 (Orgi Penn 24, Tolgay Ozbey 32, 54, Robin Singh 77) bt United Kerala 3 (David Sunday 37, 41, 48).

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