I-League: East Bengal remains in title race with 2-1 win over Real Kashmir

First half goals from Enrique Esqueda and Jaime Santos was enough to guarantee three points for East Bengal, which took the Red and Golds to 36 points from 18 Hero I-League matches.

Esqueda (L) scored his eight goal of the season.   -  AIFF MEDIA

Real Kashmir FC's title hopes came crashing down with a 2-1 loss to East Bengal in a keenly fought I-League contest here on Thursday.

Although East Bengal was the more sophisticated of the two teams in stringing passes and creating chances for the best part of the first half hour of play, Real Kashmir suffered the decisive blow when its forward Abednedo Kofi Tetteh was sent off, in the 28th minute.

The Ghanaian player was initially yellow-carded for having back-slapped dogged defender Johnny Acosta, who was pursuing him on the left corner of the pitch. Acosta fell clutching his face, and an irate Tetteh barked at the referee for the decision. He was yellow-carded once again, and sent off.

At this point, Real Kashmir was trailing 1-0, the goal having arrived in the 19th minute - an accurate, diagonal cross from midfielder Laldanmawia Ralte was headed in by forward Enrique Esqueda, positioned at the left corner of the box. The scales tiled further to East Bengal's side after the red-card; it dominated possession of the ball and doubled its lead with excellent teamwork between Jamie Santos, the midfielder, and Esqueda.

ClubMatches playedWinsDrawsLossesGFGAGDPoints
1. Chennai City18124243241940
2. East Bengal18113434191536
3. Real Kashmir1896322121033

Santos, in midfield, passed the ball to the alert Esqueda, who passed it back after having penetrated the defence. Santos, then, sent the ball to the back of the net with a superb volley.

Fightback

Real Kashmir didn't throw in the towel in the second half, however. The team showed aggression and intent to keep probing for a breakthrough. In the 68th minute, it received a penalty kick for a foul on Bazie Armand. Aaron Katebe coolly converted it.

Keeping control of the possession for the most part from thereon, East Bengal just about held on to its lead. In the 85th minute, Mason Robertson missed a golden chance to equalise - his volley from just outside the box was blown wide.

The contest keeps East Bengal in the hunt for the title. It has 36 points from 18 matches now, four points shy of Chennai City FC, the table topper, and three points ahead of Real Kashmir. In its next contest on Sunday (March 3), it takes on Minerva Punjab.

The details of Real Kashmir's next contest will be determined after the 19th round of matches.

Final score: Real Kashmir 1 (Aaron Katebe 67') - 2 East Bengal (Enrique Esqueda 20', Jaime Santos 43')

 

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