The confidence one would expect from a side playing at home was abundantly in display as East Bengal toyed with giant-killer ONGC FC 5-0 in a seventh round match of the I-League at Kolkata's Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday.
ONGC were reduced to 10 men early in the second half when their defender Sandeep Sangha received his second booking of the match. But the concession in numbers in the opponent ranks could not rob East Bengal of the credit of being the deserving winners.
The weekend crowd of around 15,000 were treated to a feast of attacking football as East Bengal played a superlative second half to realise the big scoreline and also cemented its position on top of the league standings in the process. Edeh Chidi, Orji Penn, Manandeep Singh, and substitutes Lalrindika Ralte and Robin Singh completed the sequence of scoring process as East Bengal cruised to its third successive win.
More so, the Kolkata giant scored 11 goals in the three rounds without conceding any and made a remarkable turnaround after they were held to a 1-1 draw by the defending champion Dempo SC in the fourth round.
East Bengal started cautiously looking to assess their opponent which had the reputation of upsetting big sides. Coming off a 3-1 win that dethroned Dempo from the leadership in the previous round, ONGC could not reproduce the flair that gave them the upset win at their home in Ambedkar Stadium. Shaking off the initial lethargy East Bengal found the lead in the 26th minute when Chidi broke through the ONGC defence and complimented a nice assist from Ishfaq Ahmed.
Looking to build on the lone goal lead in the first half East Bengal showed no mercy in its attacking after the interval. A nice essay of coordination between its three Nigerians saw the second goal in the 51st minute. Uga Okpara set up a long floater which Chidi nodded down inside the box for Penn to tap home. East Bengal's efforts for more goals were aided in the 59th minute when Sangha was red carded for his second bookable offence.
Manandeep Singh made it 3-0 in the 66th minute with a spectacular right-footer as the ball curled past the ONGC goalkeeper Prosenjit Ghosh before finding the back of the net. As the East Bengal coach Trevor James Morgan introduced fresh legs looking to continue the scoring process Lalrindika Ralte, who came in the 69th minute for Ishfaq, justified his coach's confidence scoring the fourth in the 78th minute. Robin Singh, a 58th minute substitute for Chidi, ended the scoring process with a spectacular left-footer in the 82nd minute.
East Bengal could have taken their tally past the half-dozen mark had not the ONGC made couple of desperate saves to prevent Ralte and Robin from scoring one more.
East Bengal remained on top with 17 points from while ONGC remained in the bottom half with six points.
Scorecard: East Bengal - 5 (Edeh Chidi 26th, Orji Penn 51st, Manandeep Singh 66th, Lalrindika Ralte 78th, Robin Singh 82nd) beat ONGC 0
(Image credit: AIFF Media)