Kolkata: Bengaluru FC’s flawless start to the I-League campaign was dented when the Blues went down 2-1 to East Bengal in a high-voltage clash that saw tempers flare at the Barasat Stadium, in Kolkata, on Sunday.
CK Vineeth’s opener for Bengaluru was matched with an Ivan Bukenya tap in before second-half substitute Robin Singh did the star turn for the hosts with a goal in the 79th minute to take the Kolkata club to second on the points table, with Aizawl FC set to play Mumbai FC later in the day.
Albert Roca rang in just the one change from the side that beat Mumbai FC on Wednesday, replacing Nishu Kumar with Sena Ralte in the left-back position as the youngster occupied an injured Sandesh Jhingan’s place on the Bengaluru bench.
With his sheen refusing to rub off, Vineeth shot Bengaluru to the lead in the 23rd minute after Eugeneson Lyngdoh’s run down the left was perfectly cut back into the path of the striker who put it past TP Rehenesh with a firm strike to silence the home fans at Barasat.
But East Bengal needed just five minutes to draw level when Bukenya caught the Blues’ defence off-guard and turned in a low corner to make it 1-1. Tempers flared when Sunil Chhetri was brought down by Mehtab Hossain as both sides went into the tunnel with the scores level and everything to play for.
Trevor Morgan started the second half throwing in striker Robin Singh for a rather ineffective Ildar Amirov and the change seemed to work as the former Bengaluru man drew Amrinder Singh into a save, hit the crossbar and slid in a delightful cross that Plaza, with an open goal at his mercy, missed completely.
But for all his individual brilliance, it was a lapse in defence that Robin capitalised on to make it 2-1 in the 79th minute. A rare error in judgment saw the ball skim off John Johnson’s head and fall onto the path of Robin’s run. With only Amrinder to beat, the striker made no mistake as he slotted calmly past the ’keeper to give the home side a late lead.
The Blues threw everything they had at a stubborn East Bengal defence as shots from Chhetri and Vineeth were saved by Rehenesh. A Lyngdoh effort sailed high of the East Bengal frame in the dying minutes as Morgan’s side held on for their third consecutive win of the season.
With this win, Kingfisher East Bengal leapfrog the reigning champions to claim second spot with 10 points from four matches, two shy of their arch-rivals Mohun Bagan. The Blues next travel to Goa where they will face Churchill Brothers, at the Fatorda Stadium on Friday.