I-League: East Bengal beat Bengaluru to take top spot

Bengaluru: East Bengal thrashed defending champions Bengaluru FC 3-1 in an I-League encounter at the Sree Kanterava Football Stadium here on Saturday.

Ivan Bukenya (23rd minute) scored the first goal for East Bengal in the first half followed by Robin Singh’s brace (54th, 60th) after the break.

C.K. Vineeth (85th) reduced the margin for the hosts.

East Bengal are now at the top of the I-League table with 24 points from 11 matches, a point ahead of second placed Aizawl FC, while Bengaluru are at the fifth spot with 13 points from 10 matches.

Earlier in the day, Aizawl FC defeated Chennai City FC 1-0 to take temporary possession of the top spot.

Bengaluru benched out-of-form Eugenson Lyngdoh and introduced goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya in the playing XI instead of injured custodian Amrinder Singh. The visitors brought in Christopher Payne in the place of the injured Willis Plaza.

Bengaluru FC started with their familiar 4-3-3 formation, with Sunil Chettri, Udanta, and Vinneth in their forwardline.

The match started at a fast pace with both teams trying adopting an attacking approach. The visitors stamped their domination on the proceedings by earning no less than three corners in the first 22 minutes.

East Bengal took the lead against the run of play when Ugandan defender Bukenya passed to Haitian Wedson Anselme from the half-line. Wedson set out on a run down the right flank and shook off some close attention from Bengaluru defender Juanan before scoring with a curling shot.

The last 10 minutes of the first half saw a barrage of attacks on the Bengaluru goal.

East Bengal doubled their lead when erstwhile Bengaluru FC player Robin Singh headed in off a cross by Robert Lalthlammuana.

Few minutes before the second goal, Chettri failed to make a connect on a Daniel Lalhlimpuia shot, which could have been termed as the closest chance for Bengaluru in the match.

Five minutes later, it was Robin Singh again who scored for the visitors.

Vineeth pulled one back for the hosts in the 85th minute, but it was a case of too little too late.

Earlier, Aizawl FC rode on a Brandon Vanlalremdika strike to beat Chennai City FC 1-0 at their home ground.

Vanlalremdika struck the winner in the 53rd minute after the teams were locked goaless in the first half.

Following the loss, Chennai City FC dropped to the ninth position with eight points from 11 matches.

The hosts enjoyed better possession in the first half. But they were unable to secure the lead despite a flurry of attacking moves thanks to poor finishing by their forwards.\

Chennai goalkeeper Karanjit Singh was troubled by the hosts quite a few times. Jayesh Rane’s corner kick was headed towards the goal by Zohmingliana but Karanjit managed to punch it over the bar. Karanjit had also blocked Al Amna’s free kick just minutes after the start.

The second half kicked off to an invigorating start. Aizawl’s R. Laldanmawia received Al Amna’s pass and unleashed a powerful shot, only to be denied by the woodwork.

Aizawl’s domination finally bore fruit when Brandon scored off an assist from the right by Ivorian forward Kamo Stephane Bayi to register his third goal of the campaign.

Alfred Jaryan nearly secured another goal for Aizawl when he delivered a powerful long ranger but Karanjit averted the danger.

“We played really well. Kamo played a great game,” Aizawl coach Khalid Jamil said after the match.

Chennai City FC coach Soundararajan admitted that the high altitude of Aizawl and the artificial turf posed a problem for his players.