A second-half strike by Tolgay Ozbey helped East Bengal register a solitary goal win over Salgaocar to climb up to the top of the standings after their fifth straight win in the I-League at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Wednesday.
East Bengal's winning moment came in the 60th minute as they put up yet another commanding show to pocket three points and lead the table with 15 points, while Salgaocar remained on 12 points.
The top of the table clash lived up to the expectations with some fighting display by both the teams in the goalless first-half.
Eyeing to consolidate their position on top of the league standings, both the teams started in attacking mode with Salgaocar defence giving some tough times from East Bengal.
Salgaocar attack led by Ghanaian Yusif Yakubu and Japanese Ryuji Sueoka also tested the local giant defence who were yet to concede a goal after four outings in the league.
Playing an all-out attacking game, the Trevor James Morgan-coached side had the best chance of the first-half in the 17th minute but Salgaocar custodian Karanjit Singh stood tall to thwart a Mehtab Hussain flying long-shot which was right on target.
Salgaocar backline led by Luciano Sabrosa was up to the task as they held back East Bengal with some solid display.
In a 26th minute move, Robin Singh put it away from a Sanju Pradhan cross in what could have been an easy goal.
East Bengal began to look threatening but Salgaocar defence stood tall, curbing the attacking instincts by Ozbey and Singh upfront.
But the Goans ensured that pressure remains on East Bengal with some fine counter-attacks.
AIFF XI beat Air India, register maiden win
After back-to-back losses in the last two matches, AIFF XI on Wednesday made a statement of sorts by defeating Air India 2-1 in a fourth round match to notch up their maiden I-League win in Gurgoan.
Shilton D Silva put AIFF XI ahead with a 32nd minute strike before Jagtar Singh doubled the lead in 73rd minute.
Air India's Samson Singh reduced the margin in the injury time (90+2) but it was too late for the Mumbai outfit to stage a fightback at Tau Devi Lal Stadium.
This was debutantes AIFF XI's maiden win in the I-League.
That AIFF XI wanted to drive home the advantage as early as they could was evident from their aggressive play from the word go, and the approach bore fruit when D Silva headed in a Tirthankar Sarkar free-kick from the left just after the half-hour mark.
AIFF XI continued to press hard for goals and kept Air India defenders on their toes. And then, coach Desmond Bulpin made a substitution that turned out to be a masterstroke.
Malsawam Fela was replaced by Jagtar Singh and the latter soon lived up to the responsibility by unleashing a power-packed shot that crashed into the back of the Air India net.
"I am pleased to earn full points here. We played as a unit and the defence was better organised," said Bulpin.
"We pressed very hard today, though there were some mispasses and our finishing could be better," he added.
Dempo down Mumbai FC
Roberto Silva's free kick guided Dempo Sports Club to a solitary goal victory over a fighting Mumbai FC in the fifth round of the I-League match at Nehru Stadium in Margao on Wednesday.
The all-important goal was scored in the 58th minute when Silva's curling free kick from the top of the box beat rival keeper Nidhin Lal and found the net. He was adjudged Man of the Match.
The visitors received a double blow when their keeper Nidhin Lal had to be rushed to the hospital after he fell unconscious following a collision with Ranty Martins while going for an aerial ball.
Lal was replaced by Ishan Debnath.
The local outfit's best chance in the first half came towards the dying minutes when Martins set up Silva inside the box, but his flick went over the bar.
The visitors' striker force Ebi Sukore Theophlius and Nna Ezeh Henry combined together and gave the shaky Dempo defence a tough time. But their efforts did not yield result.With Wednesday's win, Dempo have taken their tally to eight points from five matches. Mumbai FC, who suffered their second defeat, remained on nine points from as many matches.