East Bengal has an easy ride

KOLKATA MAY 22. Defending champion East Bengal, at last, won its first league match beating Indian Bank, Chennai 3-0 to take a firm step towards qualifying for the knockout stage of the second junior (under-19) football tournament for the NFL teams here on Thursday.

JCT Academy, Phagwara, too enjoyed a 1-0 victory over Tollygunge Agragami and remained in contention for a place in the next phase.

Interestingly, in the last set of matches on Saturday after a day's rest, East Bengal and JCT — both having logged with four points from one win and a draw — would fight it out while in the other match, Indian Bank and Tollygunge would clash. Both have one point each.

The winner of the East Bengal-JCT match would surely go through, but the loser could be in trouble provided the winner of the match between Indian Bank and Tollygunge did not pip it on goal difference. In this context, this 3-0 victory should augur well for the champion.

After a prolonged midfield tussle, East Bengal scored its first goal through Kartik Kisku in the 42nd minute.

Change of ends galvanised East Bengal to greater deeds as substitute Surajit Bose (76th) and Bipul Hansdah (81) consolidated the early gains.

Tollygunge, which drew with East Bengal in the opening encounter, failed to click as a team against a bigger and fitter opponent from Punjab.

The JCT players came up with a lot of hard running and swinging crosses to test the defence of Tollygunge. After Yadvinder Singh's centre found Surinder Singh in front of the goal with Tollygunge custodian out of position, the striker drove the ball wide.

JCT, however, got the match winner in the next minute through Mandeep Kumar whose prompt rising shot from the top of the box found the net.

JCT continued to dominate, and missed two sharp chances. Raj Kumar failed to put home a loose ball following a melee inside the box in the 83rd minute and goalkeeper Souvik Mondal thwarted Surinder twice in the 84th minute.

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