SC East Bengal finally exorcised their demons as they recorded an impressive 3-1 win against Odisha FC in the Indian Super League (ISL). In what was an extremely impressive attacking performance by Robbie Fowler’s men, goals from Anthony Pilkington, Jacques Maghoma and newcomer Bright Enobakhare were enough to seal victory. Diego Mauricio scored Odisha’s consolation goal.
The match began at fever pitch as a few tackles came flying in from both sides. Fowler brought in Milan Singh and debutant Raju Gaikwad into the starting eleven and it was the former who received the first card of the match very early with a clumsy challenge on Gaurav Bora. Incidentally, this was East Bengal’s 22nd yellow of the season, the highest of all teams.
The first real chance resulted in the first goal of the match when a Raju Gaikwad long throw caught the entire Odisha defence napping and found Anthony Pilkington near the far post who headed it home (1-0). It was a great start for the Kolkata giants and they tried to press home the advantage and go for the second. Mohammed Rafique came close, as did Anthony Pilkington but both their shots were wide.
This was followed by a decent spell for Odisha during which they put in quite a few decent crosses for Manuel Onwu and Diego Mauricio to attack. Both strikers also forced a save each from goalkeeper Debjit Majumder as East Bengal held on to their lead. Milan Singh seemed to be the midfielder that Odisha were targeting as they won back the ball from him thrice in a matter of minutes but again, Onwu and Mauricio were wasteful in attack.
Pilkington responded for East Bengal as he almost doubled the lead with a deflected shot that came off the bar. But a couple of minutes later, it was Jacques Maghoma who scored a belter of a goal to hand his side a precious two-goal lead. His driving run down the left drew in a couple of defenders. He then took the ball further left and just as everyone would have thought that the angle was too acute, he blasted in a fierce shot that goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh could barely see flying past him and in (2-0).
At the start of the second period, Onwu hit the bar following a low cross down the left in a moment that could have changed the outcome of the match. Odisha again had a very good spell of possession with Jerry Mawihmingthanga and Cole Alexander dictating proceedings. While the former did most of the ball carrying from the right side of midfield, the latter controlled the tempo of the game with his passing and breaking up of opposition moves. Mauricio too came close as his shot from distance was just wide as Odisha kept failing to capitalize on positive attacking situations.
Then came the moment that will surely excite East Bengal fans ahead of the upcoming matches. Fowler brought his new Nigerian striker Bright Enobakhare on and the 22-year-old immediately started showing his class with a few neat touches in tight spaces. Maghoma was taken off and Pilkington dropped deeper as the Torchbearers tried to see the match through. They had something better coming though, as Enobakhare himself got on the scoresheet following some goalmouth turmoil. His first shot was saved by Arshdeep but when the rebound finally reached him again, he made no mistake in placing it beyond the goalie (3-0).
Odisha reduced the deficit with seconds left on the clock when another goalmouth skirmish resulted in the ball going in off Mauricio’s knee (3-1). It was not enough though, as Fowler’s men held on for a historic victory. It was a deserving one as well following a winless run in which they were at the end of a few dicey decisions a number of times. With 6 points on board, fans would hope that this is the start of their resurgence this season even as Stuart Baxter’s side slip further down the slope.