East Bengal edged Salgaocar SC 2-1 at the Vidyasagar Stadium, Barasat on Sunday to stay on the heels of arch-rival Mohun Bagan as the I-League reached the halfway stage.
An 83rd minute header from Bello Rasaq ensured victory for the red-and-golds after the visitor had nullified Mohammad Rafique's 35th-minute strike through a Darryl Duffy goal 20 minutes into the second half. The win saw East Bengal leapfrog Bengaluru FC and snuggle into second place, a point behind current league leader Mohun Bagan.
The home team began on a bright note and former French international Bernard Mendy tested Salgaocar goalkeeper Karanjit Singh with a 30-yard pile-driver in the ninth minute. Enjoying greater ball possession, East Bengal put the visitor under pressure for a larger part of the action.
After missing a couple of chances coming from set-piece situations, East Bengal found the breakthrough in the 38th minute when Mehtab Hossain set up Rafique inside the box. The East Bengal forward punched it past a diving Karanjit Singh to get the host ahead.
The visitor found the equaliser in the 65th minute through its Scottish striker Duffy, who nodded home a floater from Augustin Fernandes.
As the match headed towards a draw with East Bengal missing some more scoring opportunities, Bello Rasaq came to the host’s rescue nodding home a corner from substitute Sanju Pradhan. The win helped East Bengal tally 17 points from eight matches and remain in the race to regain the title, which last came its way in the form of the NFL crown in 2004.
East Bengal 2 (Mohammad Rafiq 35, Bello Rasaq 83) bt Salgaocar SC 1 (Darryl Duffy 65).