East Bengal steamroll Chennai to stay in I-League title race

File Photo : Dudu Omagbemi
IANS|24-Feb-2018 17:39

Kolkata, Feb 24 : Veteran Nigerian striker Dudu Omagbemi scored four goals as East Bengal crushed Chennai City FC 7-1 here on Saturday to keep themselves firmly in contention for the I-League title.

Dudu, signed by the East Bengal in the January transfer window, notched up the first hat-trick of the season (32nd, 49th, 56th, 61st minutes) as Syrian midfielder Mahmoud Al Amna (20th) and substitute Gabriel Fernandes (84th) also got on the scoresheet.

Defender Dharmaraj Ravanan scored an own goal (23rd) in the first half as the visitors could never recover from the early setback and were left chasing shadows for most of the game.

Substitute Mashoor Shereef Thangalakath netted a consolation goal for Chennai a minute after coming on in the 59th minute at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan.

This is the highest margin of victory in the league this season, propelling East Bengal (29 points from 16 games) to the second position ahead of Minerva Punjab FC (29 points from 15 games) on better head-to-head record.

East Bengal will next travel to Shillong to take on Shillong Lajong FC before finishing their league engagements with a crunch tie against table toppers Neroca FC at home on March 8.

Chennai, placed eighth in the ten-team table with 16 points, have one more match to go against Minerva on March 2.

East Bengal coach Khalid Jamil made four changes to the side that lost to Gokulam Kerala FC 1-2. Gurwinder Singh for Arnab Mondal was an enforced one but Samad Ali Mallick, Yami Longvah and Laldanmawia Ralte were left out. 

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Mehtab Singh and Brandon Vanlalremdika were ushered in as Ansumana Kromah made his first start for the Red and Golds.

The hints of fireworks began early for the home side. Kromah and Al Amna were crowded in the opposition box after Mehtab Singh did well to send in a square but the Chennai defence held on well.

That did not remain for long as backline cracked for good in the 20th minute. 

Brandon chased Michael Soosairaj in his own half to intercept and then Lalramchullova's long ball for Mahmoud Al Amna saw Veniamin Shumeiko and Edwin Vanspaul falter. Goalkeeper Kabir Thaufiq did his best to make a double save but in the end, the Syrian came out on top to break the deadlock in the third attempt.

Three minutes later, there was more misery for the Chennai. Al Amna released Chullova on the left and the former Aizawl FC man cut in to send a low-cross only for Dharmaraj to send the ball into his own net.

Away team coach V. Soundararajan refused to be on the backfoot after shipping in two goals as he sacrificed winger Antony Beautin for an extra striker in Jean-Michael Joachim.

However, that only played to the detriment of the side looking to move up the table as defensive errors cost Soundararajan again. Mehtab Singh, a lively addition on the right flank sent a diagonal ball and Dudu slotted it into an empty net with the Chennai goalkeeper off his line.

After the change of ends, the story was all the same as the 44-year-old Dudu brought up his hat-trick with two goals inside seven minutes, making the scoreline 5-0 in favour of the hosts with Dharmaraj Ravana being at fault for both of them.

The introduction of Mashoor Shereef Thangalakath worked wonders for the team wearing sky blue as he scored the consolation of the afternoon within sixty seconds of him being on the pitch.

However, Dudu replied back in another couple of minutes to stem any sort of comeback hopes from Chennai City.

Ansumana Kromah, who set up a couple of goals tried his luck but did not find much of it when it came to finding the back of the net. He though, helped out Gabriel Fernandes with an assist, for the Goan's first goal of the season in only his first appearance at home this I-League season.