Robin Singh struck the match-winner as East Bengal made a stunning second-half comeback to beat defending champions Bengaluru FC 2-1 in a high-profile I-League football clash in Barasat on Sunday.
Robin Singh struck in the 79th minute to give East Bengal full points after team-mate Ivan Bukenya (28th minute) had cancelled out Bengaluru striker C K Vineeth’s goal in the 23rd minute.
The win will be a big boost to East Bengal’s campaign in their bid for an elusive I-League title as they are now two points behind arch-rivals Mohun Bagan (10) at the second place while the reigning champions Bengaluru were pushed to third place with nine points.
Vineeth found the East Bengal net when he touched the ball to the far corner from an unmarked run to give Bengaluru a first-half lead.
East Bengal recovered after the jolt with Lalrindika Ralte providing the assist and Ivan Bukenya finding the target to put the home team back in the game in the 28th minute.
In front of a boisterous home crowd, East Bengal’s moment finally came in the 79th minute from a sloppy back pass from Sena Ralte to defender Juanan who was caught out.
Robin seized on the opportunity seeing Willis Plaza going to his side but this time he chose to go for the goal himself and finished it wonderfully, smashing past Amrinder Singh.
There were a string of attacks by Bengaluru FC in the second half but East Bengal defence lived up to the challenge to thwart all of them and hand them the first loss of the season which came in their very first away match.
The match had its share of intense moments when Mehtab Hossain and India captain Sunil Chhetri were seen jostling and having a near bust-up minutes after East Bengal equalised.
The match got off to a sedate start with both teams involved in patient buildup trying to probe each other’s weakness and it was the Chhetri-led side who stamped their authority early in the game with some domineering display.
Enjoying the lion’s share of possession, the Blues conjured up the first chance of the match when an overlapping Khabra’s cross was somehow cleared by Gurwinder Singh with Vineeth lurking behind, ready to head it into goal.
This was preceded by Chhetri trying to make something happen out of absolutely nothing as he tried to manoeuvre a shot towards the far corner but Rehenesh palmed it out with the ball dropping in front of the goalkeeper before the defence dealt with it.
In the 22nd minute, the Indian captain tried to score a scorcher from the edge of the box with a volley off a Khabra cross before Bengaluru finally surged to the lead courtesy of Vineeth a minute later.
The defending champions nearly took the lead again before the break when Eugeneson took a shot from an acute angle but T P Rehenesh pulled off a smart save.