East Bengal defeat Gokulam 1-0
Kolkata: East Bengal made their way to the top of the 2017/18 I-League standings with a slender 1-0 victory over Gokulam Kerala FC at the Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday.
Mohammed Rafique (44') scored the only goal of the game as the Red and Golds took advantage of Minerva Punjab FC's slip to Aizawl FC 2-1 earlier in the day.
Khalid Jamil brought in Mohammed Rafique sacrificing fullback Lalramchullova as Prakash Sarkar slotted in at right back. Charles De Souza kept his place alongside Willis Plaza up top as Katsumi Yusa started on the left flank with Laldanmawia Ralte shifting to the right. Kamo Stephane Bayi was passed fit to start as Usman Ashik was left out of the playing eleven selected by Bino George as they retained a 4-2-3-1 shape with Khaled Alsaleh was flanked by Rohit Mirza and Vicky Meitei behind the lone striker, Kamo Bayi.
An early blow to the visiting side, Syrian playmaker Alsaleh was taken off the pitch in the tenth minute itself. Cameroon-born Francis Ambane was ushered in. It was Mohammed Rafique's ambitious side-volley which ruffled some feathers in the Gokulam defence but custodian Bilal Khan did well to track back and parry off the effort around the quarter of an hour mark. Kamo Bayi and Ambane then turned up the heat as the latter's free-kick from range, albeit after an initial confusion regarding the kicker between the two hit the crossbar after Luis Barreto was easily beaten, off his line.
Kamo Bayi did well to beat a sliding Eduardo Ferreira challenge near the box but his shot taken in haste from the edge of the box was nowhere near the target in the 23rd minute.
For large periods of time, it was actually the visitors who controlled the game from the midfield but the only goal of the game came against the run of play, with one minute of regulation time remaining in the first half. Left-back Santu Singh conceded a silly corner kick which could have been averted but the hosts took maximum advantage as Mohammed Rafique hit a wonderful goal to take his team on top.
Mahmoud Al Amna's flag-kick was punched out by Bilal Khan but Rafique, standing just outside the box chested the ball down and lodged the ball into the far post from the bounce as Jamil went smiling into the halftime break. agencies