A 60th minute strike by Cavin Lobo was enough for East Bengal to eke out a 1-0 win over hosts Minerva Punjab in a crucial I-League tie at Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Panchkula on Tuesday.
The hosts missed as many as four clear cut chances, with three coming in the second half itself, as the Red and Gold brigade’s custodian CK Ubaid kept his side in the match.
Lobo’s long ranger had enough pace to beat the Minerva goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar, who was immediately replaced by Kiran Limbu, much to the delight of East Bengal coach Khalid Jamil.
The three vital points helped East Bengal close the gap at the top while Minerva will have to look at the reasons for not finishing the moves. Initial exchanges were dominated by the Kolkata club as Nigerian Machpherlin Dudu and Yami Longvah troubled Minerva’s defensive line.
In the 18th minute, Lobo came close after a solo run but the ball went past the goal.
East Bengal had another chance in the 35th minute to go ahead. With only custodian Dagar to beat Japanese Katsumi Yusa, slight hesitation gave enough time to the goalkeeper to clear the ball.
Five minutes later it was Brazilian Eduardo Ferreira missing an open goal.
This jolted Minerva back to life, who till then were happy to sit back and let East Bengal play higher up.
Gagandeep Bali managed to find some space behind defenders off a cross from William Opoku. But the East Bengal custodian managed to get a touch and guided the ball over the goal.
The second half saw both sides trying to break the deadlock. Lobo collected the ball in the Minerva half but wasn’t going to miss this time. Minerva went into an all-out attack mode and Chencho Gyeltshen twice came close only to be denied by East Bengal custodian.
In the 72nd minute, Chencho managed to outrun his marker and in a one-on-one situation, Ubaid managed a guide the ball out of play. Four minutes later, Chencho once again missed a chance.
As Minerva Punjab committed more and more players into attack, Chencho once again managed to shake off his markers and pass the ball to William Opoku, who missed a simple tap in.
After the match Jamil said that it was a good win for his side and now the focus is on the next game.
“Feeling good and that is how the team will have to play. Think positive and get the results. This is a good win but next matches are also important,” Jamil said.
Minerva coach Khogen Singh said his side was down on luck. “East Bengal were lucky but we were not. We had chances but somehow couldn’t score. The boys played a good game but now it’s over. We have to concentrate on the remaining matches,” Khogen Singh said.