Salgaocar consolidated their position atop the I-League table with a thrilling 3-2 victory over East Bengal in a Round 8 match in Kalyani on Friday.
Their fifth victory from seven outings swelled their tally to 16 points, and saw them register their first away win over the Kolkata club in the I-League era. East Bengal, with six points, are placed 10th after five matches.
Goals from Karma Tsewang (9th minute), Francis Fernandes (10th) and Clifton Dias (60th) saw Salgaocar race to a 3-0 lead before East Bengal threatened to stage a comeback with goals from James Moga and Semilen Doungel in the 64th and 77th minute respectively.
In another match in Mapusa, Goa, Mohun Bagan and Dempo played out a goalless draw.
The draw took Mohun Bagan to nine points from seven matches, while Dempo have seven from as many matches.
Having beaten United SC 2-0 in Kalyani in Round 7, Salgaocar were confident of another positive away result and they went in front after just eight minutes, when Karma slotted the ball past East Bengal custodian Abhijit Mondal after Naoba Singh had cleared Darryl Duffy’s initial effort.
Even before the home team could recover from the early setback, India international Francis made it 2-0 two minutes later. The wide midfielder chipped the ball over an onrushing Abhijit after a brilliant solo run.
East Bengal desperately needed a goal to come back into the contest and they did create some openings, but Salgaocar custodian Karanjit Singh was in fine form. The India international pulled off a brilliant double save to deny Edeh Chidi and Lalrindika Ralte in quick succession.
Despite having the two-goal cushion, Salgaocar kept looking for the third as they tried to counter attack at every opportunity, with the East Bengal defenders often having to match last-ditch challenges and interceptions to stop the Goan club from scoring again.
East Bengal dominated possession at the start of the second half but were wasteful with their final ball while Salgaocar also defended solidly.
Salgaocar went three up at the hour mark when young Dias volleyed home Francis’s cross past a helpless Abhijit.
At that point it looked game over, but just four minutes later Moga pulled one back for the home side, his header giving Karanjit no chance.
The goal from Moga gave East Bengal some hope and Falopa tried to increase the tempo by making a few substitutions. On the other hand, Salgaocar coach Derrick Pereira understandably made some defensive changes.
One of Falopa’s substitutes, Doungel, scored East Bengal’s second in the 77th minute with a brilliant long range effort. The youngster showed great technique to score with that strike and it ensured a nervy last few minutes for Salgaocar.
East Bengal though failed to seriously test Karanjit in the final stages while Salgaocar substitute Claude Gnakpa was denied a fourth by Abhijit.
Image: Salgaocar's goal-scorers (from left) Francis Fernandes, Karma Tsewang and Clifton Dias
Photograph: AIFF Media