Goals from Rohan Ricketts and Ryuji Sueoka helped Dempo beat Salgaocar 2-1 and regain the top position after their ninth round I-League match at the Nehru Stadium on Saturday.
Salgaocar, looking for their first win at home, started attacking from the word go and held the ball more in the first half, but their forays were thwarted by the rival defence. Dempo made two changes, bringing in Ricketts and Fernandes in place of injured Clifford Miranda and Anthony Pereira.
Coach Armando Colaco introduced Ricketts upfront and shifted Joaquim Abranches to the left flank. Ricketts did not let his coach down as he scored in in the 29th minute.
A Randeep Singh pass from the box hit Ricketts on the top of the box. The striker controlled the ball, positioned himself and sent a low angular shot that beat keeper Karanjit Singh.
The goal spurred Dempo who kept on attacking. Salgaocar came close to scoring soon after resumption when defender Nicolau Colaco moved up after beating a couple of rival defenders and essayed a shot that missed the target narrowly.
Salgaocar's attacking play paid off as they equalised in the 59th minute. Substitute Milagres Gonsalves worked his way on the right flank and sent a measured cross into the box for Sean Rooney, who leaped high and headed the ball into the net.
Dempo's midfield was unable to dictate terms, so Colaco introduced Climax Lawrence and the move paid off as they started to pile up the pressure and nearly scored in the 80th minute, but Suoeka and Romeo Fernandes failed to find the target off a cross from Abranches.
The Salgaocar citadel crumbled in the 84th minute when Sueoka climbed over Augustine Fernandes to head the ball into the net off Ricketts' cross who received the ball from Lawrence.
East Bengal held by Lajong
Meanwhile, East Bengal had to be satisfied with a goal-less draw against Shillong Lajong FC in their ninth round I-League match in Shillong on Saturday.
Played under extreme cold conditions, East Bengal were happy with a draw. Despite creating as many as 12 corners, the visitors failed to break the rock solid defence of Wailad and Minchol Son in the attacking third.
On the other hand, Lajong created as many as four free kicks which were, however, not very impressive.
An Edeh Chidih free kick in the 75th minute flew just above the bar.
With this draw, East Bengal retained their position with 21 points till Dempo won later in the day, while Lajong moved a spot up at number eight.