Embattled SC East Bengal tasted victory for the first time in almost a month with a 2-1 win over Jamshedpur FC in an Indian Super League (ISL) match, in Margao, on Sunday.
While the Kolkata-based side jumped to ninth on the table with 16 points, Jamshedpur FC's hopes of making the ISL playoffs were dealt with another blow, leaving them at seventh, four points behind the playoff places.
Goals from Matti Steinmann (6th) and Anthony Pilkington (68th) secured the victory for SCEB. A late goal from Peter Hartley (83rd) proved to be a mere consolation for Jamshedpur.
East Bengal got off to the best start possible with Steinmann putting them ahead in the sixth minute. An early SCEB attack ended with Stephen Eze putting the ball out for a corner.
The resultant corner from Narayan Das eluded the entire Jamshedpur defence and was glanced in by Steinmann. Any hopes Jamshedpur had of extending their run of three straight clean sheets had come to an early end.
Owen Coyle's men had scored just one goal from open play in their previous four encounters. Whatever moves that their midfielders were able to string together ended abruptly in the final third with Jamshedpur's attackers able to get into good positions.
With SCEB dominating possession and defending well, Jamshedpur finished the half with zero shots on target. Nerijus Valskis, in particular, cut a frustrated figure often dropping down into midfield in search of the ball.
The Kolkata side started the second half as they had the first, with a freekick in a dangerous area. Steinmann again lost his marker and got into a good position but missed the ball by a whisker.
The next big chance fell to Narayan, who was played in on the left flank. He sprinted towards the Jamshedpur goal before forcing a fine save from keeper TP Rehenesh.
While East Bengal were dominating proceedings, Jamshedpur nearly found a goal against the run of play in the 63rd minute. After being fed by Farukh Choudhary on the left, Valskis unleashed a shot that bounced off the upright.
Jamshedpur were soon left ruing that miss as SCEB found a second goal. Steinmann turned creator this time, finding Pilkington with a pin-point through ball and the Englishman made no mistake from close range.
Pilkington came close to scoring again, finding the woodwork in the 79th minute. But it was Jamshedpur who got the next goal with Hartley heading in Isaac Vanmalsawma's cross.
However, that proved to be mere consolation for the Red Miners as East Bengal held on to their lead till the final whistle. There was a late penalty claim for Jamshedpur in injury time, but the referee did not spot anything amiss.
Hyderabad FC and NorthEast United share spoils in goal-less stalemate
Hyderabad FC and NorthEast United remained in the reckoning for the play-off spots of the Indian Super League after the match between the two sides ended in a goal-less draw at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco.
While Hyderabad moved to third on goal difference, NEUFC climbed above FC Goa to fourth. FC Goa, however, have a game in hand and will face leaders Mumbai City FC on Monday.
The two teams weren't able to find the breakthrough in the first half with defences of both the sides standing tall. Despite hogging possession, Hyderabad registered just one shot on target against NEUFC in the first half.
NEUFC eventually grew in confidence in the game and fashioned better opportunities in the first half.
Hyderabad had a half-chance early on when Halicharan Narzary whipped a cross in to the box. Aridane Santana attacked the ball and leapt high but Dylan Fox made a brave clearance, following a clash of heads.
NEUFC created their first big chance in the 24th minute from a free-kick. Luis Machado raced down the left and delivered a cross that was cleared out by Akash Mishra. Lalengmawia pounced on the loose ball but headed straight to Hyderabad keeper Laxmikant Kattimani.
NEUFC won another free-kick in the later stages of the first half and should have done better from the chance. Federico Gallego pinged the ball towards Benjamin Lambot at the far post, who flicked the ball towards Machado.
The Portuguese forward failed to make any contact with the ball, missing a sitter from close range. However, the linesman later raised his flag after Lambot had strayed offside.
The second half proved to be a drab affair, with neither team able to register a single shot on target.
The best chance of the second half came during the 85th minute after substitute VP Suhair won NEUFC a free-kick. Gallego fired a teasing cross towards the far post and picked out Lambot but the defender blazed his header over the bar.
The Highlanders continued to push for a winner and came close to doing so in injury time. Gallego threaded a fine through ball in the box for Machado but Kattimani came off his line well in time to avert the danger.