SPORT

D'Cunha scores East Bengal's winner

East Bengal's Alvito D'Cunha (right) shoots the ball past a rushing Mahindra United defender Surkumar Singh (centre) in the NFL match on Sunday.  

KOLKATA NOV. 24. Kingfisher East Bengal lived and perilously and managed to preserve a 1-0 scoreline against Mahindra United in a third round match of the Oil PSU VIII National Football League match here at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday.

Goa import Alvito D'Cunha slotted the all-important goal in the 25th minute of the match to realise three crucial points for East Bengal. Apart from D'Cunha's brilliant finishing in the middle stage of the first session, the home team otherwise huffed and puffed almost all throughout to the dismay of around 30,000 supporters.

East Bengal now has six points while Mahindra could muster only three gained from its win against HAL at home.

Compared to East Bengal, Mahindra was much more fluent in its approach but striking problems seemed to break down the automobile giant's dreams. The visitor gave the right indications of coming out of the crisis forced by its surprise 2-3 loss against Manaksia Tollygunge Agragami , but the inability of its forwardline to capitalise on the opportunitiescontributed to its undoing.

Mahindra, playing in the traditional 4-4-2 format espoused by its Czech coach Karel Stromsik, incorporated a few changes in the starting line-up. Ivory Coast striker Mongba Aby Samson replaced Abhishek Yadav to partner R.C. Prakash upfront while Peter Siddique started in deep defence instead of Anthony Pereira. The midfield, the most consistent section of the team with James Singh and R.P Singh as the wingers and Czech Petr Strandel and Devjit Ghosh as the central halves, was unaltered.

East Bengal too brought in Arun Malhotra and Chandan Das — both back from serving brief bans following AIFF's disciplinary action — in their respective slots in defence and midfield while D'Cunha was introduced as a striker alongside Nigerian Mike Okoro.

Starting in its trademark offensive fashion, East Bengal almost found the target in the very first minute. D'Cunha paced up from the left and measured a cross for Okoro right at the Mahindra goalmouth but Siddique's alacrity saved the visitor, which saw the defender nudging ahead of the opponent striker to clear the ball.

Mahindra hit back soon but saw its Nigerian stopper-back Odartey Lawson sending a measured corner from James Singh, wide. Samson, who was wayward from close in his 20th minute attempt, was the next to disappoint Mahindra.

As both teams traded attacks in search of the goal, D'Cunha did the honours for East Bengal. The home team found the infallible left foot of D'Cunha coming good once again as the Goanese striker finished a 25th minute move. The goal happened following a clever ploy from Okoro who put his big frame in the way blocking the Mahindra defenders while D'Cunha collected a midfield lob from Chandan Das and ran up unchallenged to score.

Despite playing with five midfielders, East Bengal failed to keep up the tempo after the goal as Mahindra took over the reins of the match soon after. Despite having a fair share of ball possession the Mumbai giant was unable to make much in the striking zone as its forwardline remained very tentative.