Quess East Bengal (QEB) put their title hopes right back on track with an odd goal in the victory against hosts Churchill Brothers at the Tilak Maidan in Goa.
A super strike by Spaniard Jamie Santos Colado and a fortunate strike from Lalrindika ‘Didika’ Ralte on either side of each half, ensured Trinidadian Willis Plaza’s third-minute strike for Churchill counted for nothing.
The win took QEB to second on the 12th Hero I-League points tally, with 15 points from eight games, just three behind table-toppers Chennai City FC. Churchill moves down to fifth, remaining on 13 points from nine games.
Going into the game, Red and Golds coach Alejandro Garcia made only one change, starting Samad Ali Mallick in the right wing back position in place of Lalram Chullova, who had an ordinary outing in their last game against Mohun Bagan.
Churchill’s Romanian coach Petra Gigiu, had to make two forced changes due to injury and as a result, Nickson Castanha got the first start and so did Shillum Pires in deep defence in place of regulars Hussein Eldor and Wayne Vaz. Gigiu also opted for Vigneshwaran ‘Vicky’ Baskaran in goal in place of regular first-choice James Kithan.
The home team took the lead straight away after a cross from the left by Gambian Dawda Cessay in the third minute was controlled ahead of QEB centre back Borja, by league top scorer Willis Plaza. He slid away and took a shot on the turn with his left foot to beat Rakshit Dagar in goal. Dagar did get a touch on it before the ball rolled in and could have done better.
This was Plaza’s eighth goal of the 12th Hero I-League and Cessay’s sixth assist as well and it is not the first time the combination has struck for Churchill this season.
It was end-to-end football after that and both sides had their chances.
In the 35th minute, however, East Bengal drew level thanks to a super strike by new 23-year-old Spanish signing Jamie Santos Colado. They got a corner and Didika floated a left-footer right across the Churchill goal. Before it landed on top of the box, Santos connected with a thunderous low right-footed volley, which beat Vicky and bulged the back of the Churchill net. The technique exhibited by Colado had class written all over it.
Jobby Justin, East Bengal\s highest scorer of this campaign with five goals to his name, had the first good chance of the second half on the 51st minute when a loose ball fell his way outside the Churchill box, but his effort went over.
Churchill had a similar chance of their own five minutes later but this time, Khalid Aucho’s powerful grounder just missed the mark.
Plaza’s Trinidadian countryman, Anthony Wolfe then found himself with a chance at a shot in the 59th minute, but his effort from close also flew over the goal.
Both teams tried to break the deadlock with QEB looking the more purposeful and Didika it was, who put QEB ahead in the 79th minute to add to his assist earlier.
It was another set-piece, this time a free-kick on the right flank. Didika appeared to have delivered a perfect ball inside the box, which ultimately missed everyone, bounced in front of a baffled Churchill keeper and went in.
This made it three wins on the trot for the East Bengal side after three back-to-back losses, and Churchill, after remaining unbeaten in their first seven games, has now suffered two straight losses.
Jaime Santos was adjudged the Hero of the Match for his stunning goal.