Nothing seems to be going right for SC East Bengal in the Indian Super League (ISL). After being comprehensively beaten in their first two matches, the Kolkata giants came into tonight’s match against NorthEast with a lot to prove. But for the third consecutive match, finishing, and luck, seemed to desert them in the important moments as they went 2-0 down to the Highlanders.
In what was a very open match of football right from the get go, Robbie Fowler’s men started well. Sehnaj Singh came in for the injured Daniel Fox and reverting back to a back 3 seemed to be working. They created quite a few openings in the first period. Jacques Maghoma’s free-kick from the left was met by a glancing header by Scott Neville but he could only find the safe hands of goalkeeper Gurmeet Singh. Balwant Singh had a decent chance in the 15th minute but his shot from inside the box was blocked. Thereafter, the Red and Golds won a lot of free-kicks near the NorthEast penalty area but the delivery always left a lot to be desired.
For Gerard Nus’ side, Ninthoi Meetei was a constant threat from the right with his burst of pace and intelligent decision-making. Every time he got the ball, he tried to take on the defenders and make them commit to a tackle. Then came the moment which Robbie Fowler will point out as one of the turning points of the match. Maghoma received a pass from the left inside the penalty box and attempted to turn first time. Ashutosh Mehta caught the Congolese midfielder as all the SC East Bengal players appealed for a penalty. However, the referee refused to give a penalty, much to the dismay of Fowler and his players.
Soon after that, there was more bad luck. Kwesi Appiah put in a cross into the box which Scott Neville completely missed. The ball went between Idrissa Sylla’s legs, hit Surchandra Singh and ricocheted into the goal, much to the dismay of a wrong-footed Debjit Majumder (1-0). To East Bengal’s credit, they did come back well from this disappointment in the beginning of the second half after CK Vineeth came on in place of Balwant. Pilkington had a couple of shots saved while Maghoma and Steinmann also came close.
NorthEast’s Sylla and Luis Machado had a few chances to increase the lead as well. Machado was another player who got better and better as the game progressed. He went on a mazy run past 2-3 defenders at least a couple of times but could not find the end-product. On the other hand, East Bengal kept losing confidence as the game wore on which was showing in their indecisiveness on the ball. Credit should go to Benjamin Lambot as well as he kept the attackers at bay with his commanding presence at the back. At least four or five times, Surchandra, Narayan Das and substitute Eugeneson Lyngdoh had the chance to put in a cross but they faltered one way or the other.
It was in the 91st minute that NorthEast made the killer blow. Following a fast break down the right, VP Suhair’s perfectly placed cross was met perfectly by Rochharzela from eight yards out as the ball went in (2-0). With this victory, Gerard Nus’ spirited side go 2nd in the table and are yet to be defeated. They face Bengaluru FC next. SC East Bengal on the other hand, remain bottom after three losses from as many matches. Fowler has no option but to pick up his boys after this latest disappointment as they face Jamshedpur five days later.