Cleiton Silva’s brilliant free-kick in the second half injury-time helped East Bengal find the winner against former champion Hyderabad FC 2-1 to record its first victory of the ISL 2023-24 season, at Salt Lake Stadium, here on Saturday.
The Brazilian forward had previously scored the equaliser almost immediately after Hyderabad found the lead through Hitesh Sharma in the eighth minute of the first half.
The opening half was all about the two goals, which the opponents shared to remain locked till the interval. East Bengal enjoyed a greater share of the attacks initially, but Hyderabad found the lead first off a defensive error from the host that allowed forward Joseph Knowles to cut inside and shoot. His effort took a deflection off the East Bengal midfielder Souvik Chakrabarti and reached an unmarked Hitesh, who directed the ball into the net.
AS IT HAPPENED: East Bengal vs Hyderabad FC highlights
The Hyderabad lead was short-lived as East Bengal regrouped quickly and found the equaliser through Cleiton. The chance was created after the Hyderabad deference let down its guard as East Bengal’s Spanish play-maker Borja Herrera surged into the box.
Nim Dorjee Tamang managed a half-hearted tackle to see the ball rolling over to Cleiton, who just chipped over the goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani to find the net. East Bengal had another chance in the 36th minute when Cleiton failed to keep his header on a Naorem Mahesh cross.
Cleiton got involved in a nasty collision with Kattimani in the 40th minute when he tried to reach a cross from Mandar Rao Desai.
This resulted in the Hyderabad FC goalkeeper suffering a swollen eye and having to be taken off the field, with Anuj Kumar replacing him.
East Bengal seemed to lose its way after the equaliser, allowing the contest to drift into a listless essay for the greater part of the action before Cleiton found the winner in the added time (90+3) with a stunning finishing from a freekick, as the ball hit the underside of the crossbar and ended up at the back of the net.
East Bengal was lucky not to concede a late equaliser thanks to the alertness of its goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, who put in a diving effort to stop a rasping half-volley from the Hyderabad substitute Aaren D’Silva in the 90+7 minute.
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