Coimbatore: East Bengal snapped a three-match losing streak, including a derby loss against arch rivals Mohun Bagan by defeating defending champions Chennai City FC 2-0 to remain in contention for the I-League title here on Saturday.
Second-half goals by Spanish attackers Marcos Jimenez Espada and Jaimie Santos Colado at the Nehru Stadium achieved a well-deserved victory for the Kolkata club.
East Bengal hardly put a foot wrong during the match with stand-in coach Bastab Roy setting the ball rolling with three changes which paid rich dividends.
Mirshad got his first game of the season in the East Bengal goal and had a very good day, while Asheer Akhtar, in the heart of defence, built on the potential he showed earlier in the league season.
Mizoram winger Brandon Vanlalremdika also got his first start of the season. Before he was replaced in the 66th minute, he should have had at least two goals to his name. Marti Crespi, Pintu Mahata and Lalthuammawia Ralte were the other ones to miss out on goals.
Chennai City head coach Akbar Nawas also made three changes to his starting eleven, bringing in young Swiss recruit Jan Mazangu, Pravitto Raju and Shem Marton on for Tarif Akhand, Ajith Kumar and Srira.
The first chance of the game went to Chennai's Spanish striker Adolfo 'Fito' Araujo, one of the three he would get in the game. While Chennai dominated possession in the first half, East Bengal clearly had far better chances, one of them a missed penalty by Colado after the ball was handled inside the box. Nauzet Santana brought off the first of many good saves in goal.
At least on three other occasions in the half, East Bengal players found themselves one-on-one with the keeper but each time missed. Brandon missed a couple of chances, one off a wonderful Espada through ball on a counterattack with Santana again coming out brilliantly to thwart the dimunitive Mizo.
Colado, in the 35th minute, inexplicably saw his lob sail over Santana and the crossbar and minutes later Juan Mera missed another golden opportunity to score for East Bengal.
The half ended goal-less but the Kolkata side were clearly in the ascendant.
After resumption, Brandon hit the post again in the 58th minute, this time after curling one past Eslava from close range. That would be his last effort of the game as Liberian frontman Ansumanah Kromah replaced him.
East Bengal finally broke through in the 68th minute with Kromah having an immediate impact. He played Colado into the box on the right, and the Spaniard broke away towards the goal line and crossed for Espada to tap it in expertly from close. It was a typical poacher's goal and Espada took his tally to five for the season.
The Red and Golds then got a second penalty, Jishnu Balakrishnan being adjudged to have brought Colado down in the box.
East Bengal and Colado were not to be denied a second time and closed out on a much-needed victory.
They now move up to fourth spot with 11 points from eight games while Chennai remain on eighth with eight points from seven matches....