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Air India beat East Bengal 1-0
Mario Rodrigues | January 07, 2007 19:55 IST
Last Updated: January 08, 2007 11:03 IST
Upsets continued for the third day running in the 11th National Football League as Air India humbled three-times champions East Bengal by a 1-0 margin in their opening round match at the Cooperage ground in Mumbai on Sunday.
Substitute Samson Singh fired the match-winner in the 71st minute after African stopper-back A K Martins had flicked on a long throw in by another substitute Uttam Singh from the right flank.
Samson booted the ball home past East Bengal custodian Naseem Akhtar in a flash to give the Mumbai outfit their first ever win over the famed red & gold brigade in any competition. Air-India had held East Bengal twice in the last edition of the NFL.
It was a deserving New Year present for Bimal Ghosh as his lads set a fast pace from the word go and did not let East Bengal settle down and strike a rhythm all through the match.
It was a below par performance by the Kolkata outfit who looked suspect in defence and listless in midfield. Upfront too, their gangling Kenyan striker Boniface Ambani was a total misfit while their PIO recruit, Izumi Arata, also did not impress.
Arata missed East Bengal's best chance when he stabbed a loose ball wide of the post in the 40th minute after Air India goalkeeper Raju Ekka rushed out to block the angle.
The only other chance the losers had was when medio Dipankar Roy unleashed a deadly long ranger following a flak kick which Ekka dived and deflected for a corner in the 66th minute.
Tall centre-back Benoy Kuruvilla, voted man of the match, right-wing back Noel Fernandes, combative striker Bashiru Abbas and speedy winger Paresh Shivalkar who often got past his marker Sashti Duley, whose defensive capabilities were not commendable, were among the several Air India players who contributed to their victory.
East Bengal's Brazilian coach Carlos Roberto Pereira da Silva threw in Alvito D'Cunha and strikers Ashim Biswas and Freddy Mascarenhas in the second session but to no avail.