In the way Willis Plaza left Mumbai FC bedazzled, it fit that the Trinidad and Tobago international debuted for his country at a stadium named after Sir Vivian Richards. Quick of feet and exhibiting good close control, Plaza sealed the deal comfortably for East Bengal against their hitherto bogey team.
When East Bengal FC last beat Mumbai FC, Barrack Obama hadn’t yet been sworn in for his second term as president of the USA, Magnus Carlsen was not even a challenger to Viswanathan Anand and Spain were still the world’s football champions.
Over four years after that match, on January 13, 2013, East Bengal notched up a fifth consecutive win in the 10th I-League; a result that keeps them in pole position with 16 points from six games. Should they beat Chennai City FC here on Sunday, it would mean an encore for coach Trevor Morgan after 2010-11 when he first took charge of the red-and-gold brigade.
Lalrindika Ralte was one of the few common threads for East Bengal between then and now. It was his long ball from inside the East Bengal half that Plaza, 29, stretched out his leg and took it down before beating Regan Singh for pace and then sending him the wrong way and shooting home in the 17th minute. Even before he had shaken jet-lag, Plaza had shown glimpses of his ability against Aizawl FC in the opener. His fourth goal of the competition showed how this sinewy striker is getting better with time.
Plaza had scored East Bengal’s opener in the 10th minute stabbing home after Mumbai FC’s central defenders Shallum Pires and Chinta Chandrasekhar failed to clear a regulation offering from overlapping right-back Rahul Bheke. Plaza had slipped but managed to get up faster than a Mumbai FC defender and score.
By the time Mumbai FC swapped Pires and right-back Pratik Chowdhary, the hosts had consigned coach Santosh Kashyap to his fourth straight defeat this term. Mumbai City FC had a better second half with the Karan Sawhney leading the line and Shilton Silva almost scored with a header but East Bengal goalie TP Rehenesh showed there is more to him than eccentric decisions in the first half with a save for which assistant-referee Arun Pillai felt he hadn’t gone inside the goalline.