I-League: East Bengal keep title hopes alive with 1-0 win over Minerva Punjab

first_imgEast Bengal on Sunday beat Minerva Punjab FC by a solitary goal in their penultimate round match to remain in the title hunt and take the battle for I-League crown down the wire.Enrique Esqueda scored the winning goal for East Bengal in the 75th minute at the Tau Devi Lal Stadium here.East Bengal’s win on Sunday meant that the I-League title will be decided on the final match day on Saturday.With 39 points from 19 matches, East Bengal are just one point behind leaders Chennai City FC (40 points from 19 matches).The Kolkata giants will need to win their final match against Gokulam Kerala FC in Kozhikhode on Saturday and hope that Chennai City FC either draw or lose against Minerva in Coimbatore on the same day if they want to lift the trophy for the first time.Full Time.MPFC 0 : 1 QEBFCA game well played by Quess East Bengal against Minerva Punjab who put up a good challenge.#LoveEastBengal #EastBengalFC #QuessEastBengalFC pic.twitter.com/kh9qRrFutTQuess East Bengal FC (@eastbengalfc) March 3, 2019For Chennai City FC, a win against Minerva at home ground on Saturday will be enough to clinch their maiden I-League crown.Both the title-deciding matches will be played at the same time at 5pm on Saturday.Holders Minerva, who were out of reckoning for the title long time back, started the game on an attacking note and enjoyed a good spell of possession in the first few minutes, but East Bengal did not allow the hosts an inch in midfield. The game was mostly played in the middle of the park in the first quarter.advertisementEast Bengal, with their urgency for a win, did try pressing high but full marks to the organised defence of Minerva, which ensured that the visitors do not get an opportunity to draw first blood.Esqueda, Santos and Ralte combined well to come close to scoring twice, but some great keeping by Minerva’s Arshdeep and the woodwork played a critical role in ensuring that the first 45 minutes of the game remained goalless.The second half began with East Bengal taking the initiative to go into the lead, but they could not breach the Minerva defence on most occasions.Minerva, on the other hand, kept attacking in short bursts through the combination of Juan Quero and Sreyas VG, but failed to find an opportunity to take the lead.East Bengal came really close to scoring on a couple of occasions but some exceptional goalkeeping by Minerva’s Arashdeep ensured that the visitors did not get the elusive goal.Minerva, who were playing a very organised game, somehow gave way to the visitors, when a wrong clearance saw Enrique Esqueda make no mistake in grabbing the opportunity and find the back of the net in the 75th minute.After the goal, both the teams played on an attacking note, with Minerva aiming for an equaliser, while East Bengal hoping for a double lead but nothing came out in the final 15 minutes.GOKULAM GET 1ST WIN IN 12 GAMESGokulam Kerala FC, winless in 12 games and over three and a half months, carved out an odd goal in the victory over Manipuri side Neroca FC at the EMS Corporation stadium in Kozhikode on Sunday.Second half goals from Ghanaian Daniel Addo and Trinidadian Marcus Joseph secured three points for the home side after Nigerian Felix Chidi had scored his seventh of the 12th Hero I-League, to give Neroca a lead in the first half.The win takes the Gokulam side to the ninth place on the points table. They are just above Minerva Punjab FC, thanks to a better head-to-head record.More importantly, this steers them clear of the relegation zone, as bottom-placed Shillong Lajong can now only equal the Kozhikode-based side if they win their last two games. However, Gokulam have a better head-to-head record with Lajong, and thus cannot mathematically finish in the drop zone.Neroca were using the right wing very effectively and the goal eventually came from there when Malem latched on to a ball on the channel and made a run towards the box. Looking up, he spotted a run from Japanese winger Katsumi Yusa inside the box and delivered a perfect cross.The Japanese failed to connect but Felix Chidi stabbed home for an easy finish. It was the Nigerian’s seventh goal of the campaign.From that point on, Gokulam were stirred into action with Marcus Joseph being the catalyst.He first attempted a snapshot on target in the 28th minute but it brought about a good save from Lalit Thapa in the Neroca goal.advertisementAnother one from Marcus two minutes later was even better and more powerful, bringing about an even better reaction save from Thapa. He then lined up a third shot in the 33rd, a powerful strike this time from outside the box, but Thapa was up to it again.Gokulam got the equaliser as soon as the second begun. Marcus passed seemingly harmlessly to Daniel Addo in the centre of midfield well inside the Neroca half. The former U-20 FIFA World Cup winning Ghanian, trapped, took a touch forward and then looking up to spot the opportunity, unleashed a well-placed powerful right-footed strike to beat Thapa.Bhutanese winger Chencho had a chance to get Neroca back ahead a few minutes later, after Malem had set him up inside the box but Arnab Das Sharma in the Gokulam goal came up with a save this time.A minute later, Emmanuel rounded keeper Thapa, but missed the target from inside the box wide on the left.However, Gokulam were not to be denied as in the 82nd minute, Daneil Addo with the assist found Marcus with a lovely ball from his own half.The Trinidadian broke away, and with the ball on his favourite left-foot in a one-on-one with Thapa, placed it in the Neroca net over the keeper’s left shoulder.Also Read | Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne set for spell out with hamstring problemAlso Read | David Beckham salutes LA Galaxy and Los Angeles as statue unveiledAlso See:last_img

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