Calcutta/Margao: Kingfisher East Bengal moved to the top of the I-League ladder with a 3-0 win over Churchill Brothers in a sixth round I-League encounter at the Nehru Stadium, Fatorda, on Saturday.
Nigerian striker Edeh Chidi scored a brace and Manandeep Singh added his name to the scoresheet to help East Bengal move ahead of Dempo (13 points) and Churchill Brothers (12 points).
East Bengal coach Trevor James Morgan sounded happy after his team reached the top position. "Our aim was to reach the top position. Now that we have achieved it, it will be important that we hold on to the top spot."
East Bengal got an early lead when Chidi collected a nice ball from Penn Orji, worked his way past two defenders and coolly slotted the ball past Churchill goalkeeper Sandip Nandy when the match was just five minutes old.
"The early goal spurred us on. It gave us the momentum… And we managed to keep the pressure on the opponents," Chidi said from Margao.
The goal woke Churchill up from their slumber and they started to get a toe-hold in the game. Lebanese striker Akram Moghrabi was a constant threat, but with rival stopper-back Uga Okpara always on his heels, the East Bengal goal seemed well protected.
Churchill Brothers, Akram in particular, did have attempts on goal but there was no success.
The best chance of the half for the hosts was midway into the first session when Akram sent a well-measured ball across the goal but Steven Dias could not connect.
Churchill started the second half strongly but the tale of missed chances continued. Okpara once came up with a timely tackle to ward Akram's danger, and then it was goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu's turn to dive full-length to his left to keep away a stunning header from the Lebanese.
East Bengal had gone close at the other end as well. Penn Orji's lob with the goalkeeper out of position was saved on the goalline by Denzil Franco.
East Bengal made the issue safe in the 76th minute when Manandeep Singh's stunning left-footer from almost 25 yards out found the top corner of the net.
The goal broke Churchill's back and despite there being a couple of raids, they could not open their goal account till the final whistle. In fact, it was East Bengal who heaped more humiliation on the hosts as Chidi capitalised on a defensive lapse in the final minute of added time to make it 3-0.
For Morgan, the victory tasted more sweeter as it came from an away game. "Churchill are always a tough opposition. They have really good players. So defeating them on their home ground is really special. To be frank, I didn't expect such a smooth ride."
Speaking about the performance of his team, Morgan said: "I always believe that if your players can execute the plan, you can beat any opposition. My boys stuck to the plans."
In Pune, Mumbai FC registered a crucial 4-1 win over Lajong FC.
If it was Haroon Fakruddin Amiri's brace that gave Mumbai FC their first win of the season last week, Saturday belonged to Nicholas Rodrigues, who opened the scoring and then set up Justin Stephen for the third goal as the 'home' team climbed to No. 9 position with six points from six matches.
Mumbai FC's Subhash Chakraborty and Gabriel Fernandes started the offensive from the start. But it was Rodrigues who drew the first blood.
Meanwhile, the Pune FC and Air India match, which was scheduled to take place on Sunday, has been postponed due to the demise of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray.
Related report: Page 19