I-League: Rafique stunner sinks Gokulam Kerala

Al Amna's corner kick was cleared but Rafique, waiting outside the box, chested the ball down and unleashed a powerful right-footer to beat Bilal Khan under the bar.

East Bengal kept pushing and had a sigh of relief when Rafique scored in the closing stages of the opening period. File photo   -  J. Manoharan

Mohammed Rafique's 44th minute stunner helped East Bengal beat Gokulam Kerala FC 1-0 in an I-League encounter at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Wednesday.

East Bengal's sixth win took its tally to 13 points and top the table.

East Bengal put pressure through Katsumi Yusa, Al Amna and Charles de Souza and won as many as five corners in the first half. However, the host was far from being impressive due to the lack of any organised move.

It allowed Gokulam to find its feet. Midfielder Ambane Francis, who came in the 10th minute as key playmaker Khaled Al Saleh went off the field due to a hamstring issue, tested the East Bengal defence.

Francis was unlucky as his left-footer off a free-kick hit the crossbar in the 16th minute. The tall Cameroon player's flat shot off another free-kick crashed into the left side netting 22 minutes later.

Returning from an injury, Bayi Kamo made some spirited runs to ask more questions to the host.

East Bengal kept pushing and had a sigh of relief when Rafique scored in the closing stages of the opening period. Al Amna's corner kick was cleared but Rafique, waiting outside the box, chested the ball down and unleashed a powerful right-footer to beat Bilal Khan under the bar. The Gokulam keeper dived to his right but managed only a touch.

Gokulam got another setback when an unfit Kamo limped off the pitch early in the second half.

The visiting side was in further trouble when Rohit Mirza's intentional foul on Yusa earned him a red card and reduced Gokulam to 10 men in the 53rd minute.

The terrible challenge on Yusa's right knee forced the Japanese to sit out from 59th minute onwards.