I-League: East Bengal defeats Gokulam Kerala, finishes second

Marcus Joseph put Gokulam Kerala ahead before Jaime Santos and Laldanmawia Ralte scored to give East Bengal a 2-1 win and lead the side to a second place finish in the 2018-19 Hero I-League.

The 2-1 win over Gokulam Kerala saw East Bengal finish second in the Hero I-League.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

At half-time, the East Bengal players got the news that that league leader Chennai City FC was down by an early goal against Minerva Punjab in Coimbatore.

That probably worked wonders, for a second-half surge saw East Bengal bounce back from a goal down to defeat Gokulam Kerala FC 2-1 in the I-League at the EMS Corporation Stadium here on Saturday evening.

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But with Chennai City finishing with a big win in Coimbatore, it went in vain. East Bengal, which has never won the I-League, had to be content with the runner-up spot with 42 points, a point behind CCFC.

All the goals came in the last 20 minutes or so. Trinidad and Tobago striker Marcus Joseph gave Gokulam Kerala the lead in the 69th minute while East Bengal scored twice in the space of six minutes - through a Jaime Santos penalty and midfielder Laldanmawia Ralte’s header.

“I’m sad but not disappointed, my boys played well. We have made progress and have overcome many difficult situations,” said Alejandro Menendez, the East Bengal coach, said after the game.

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“I think when you lose a title, it’s not because you lost one game. We had one team that had one point more than us. But before the match, I thought we could win the title.”

Needing a win badly, the Red-and-Gold brigade was under pressure in the opening half and the home side took advantage of it and played freely. Gokulam striker Marcus Joseph was the star of the opening session and came close to scoring thrice in the first half.

His attempt in the 18thminute was saved by goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar while Joseph went on a solo run near the half-hour mark, with defender Borja Gomez chasing him desperately. He went one-on-one with the goalkeeper but Dagar was up to the task, denying him.

Joseph was finally successful in the 69th minute, coming in from the left and finding the target with a neat finish.

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Ten minutes later, Jaime Santosh Colado scored off a penalty after Kassim Aidara was brought down and a little later, Laldanmawia Ralte, who had done a lot of hard work earlier, produced the match-winner in a dramatic manner. His header rebounded off goalkeeper Arnab Das but Ralte was successful the second time, sending the ball home.

The result: Gokulam Kerala 1 (Marcus Joseph 69’) lost to East Bengal 1 (Jaime Santos Colado 79’ penalty, Laldanmawia Ralte 85’)

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