Cleiton Silva's brilliant strike early on and a Debjit Majumder own goal just before half time helped Bengaluru FC halt their eight-game winless streak by beating SC East Bengal 2-0 on Tuesday. The win helped Bengaluru leapfrog Chennaiyin FC and Jamshedpur FC to move sixth in the table, and just three points behind FC Goa, who are currently occupying the final playoffs spot. The win also marked Naushad Moosa's first victory as BFC's interim head coach.
Meanwhile, East Bengal have now gone five games without a win, their last three points in fact coming against BFC in the reverse fixture on January 9. Their troubles continue off the pitch as well, with coach Robbie Fowler facing a possible ban for alleged racist remarks against the referees after their last game. They remain 10th in the table, with just two wins so far this season, and with only Odisha FC below them.
Moosa made two changes to the side that drew against Hyderabad FC. Juan Gonzalez and Erik Paartalu missed out with injury and suspension respectively, and replacing the duo were Pratik Chaudhari and Ajith Kumar. Robbie Fowler, meanwhile, made five changes to his East Bengal side that drew with FC Goa as Matti Steinmann, Ankit Mukherjee, Wahengbam Luwang, Aaron Joshua Holloway and Harmanpreet Singh came in to replace Rana Gharami, Mohammed Rafique, Jacques Maghoma, Anthony Pilkington and Jeje Lalpekhlua.
Bengaluru started the game on the front foot, with the first attack coming in just the third minute. Udanta Singh played Sunil Chhetri through on the right wing, and the skipper's cross was met by Leon Augustine, whose diving effort sailed over the bar. At the other end, Ajith Kumar's last-ditch tackle on Harmanpreet Singh stopped the striker from getting to the end of Bright Enobakhare's low cross, preventing East Bengal from taking an early lead.
Danny Fox, having made a crucial interception in the 9th minute to deny Cleiton Silva from getting to a long ball, could do nothing to prevent the Brazilian from getting on the scoreboard three minutes later. Chhetri outjumped Scott Neville to meet Gurpreet Singh Sandhu's free-kick, heading the ball down to Cleiton and the Brazilian set himself up with his first touch to smash it home on the volley.
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Bengaluru were forced into a change just before half time, as Leon Augustine was replaced by Parag Shrivas. The youngster made an immediate impact on the game, as his effort from a Rahul Bheke cross bounced back into play off the upright and ricocheted back into goal off Debjit Majumder's leg to give BFC a deserved 2-0 lead going into the break.
Fowler made two half-time substitutions, hoping the fresh legs would help East Bengal find a way back. But they struggled to break BFC open, especially as Moosa's side sat back with a comfortable 2-0 lead. Bengaluru had a chance to make it three when Chhetri capitalized on a defensive lapse from Rana Gharami to unleash a volley from distance, but the effort came off the crossbar.
BFC next face Chennaiyin on February 5, while East Bengal face Jamshedpur FC on February 7.