East Bengal's title hopes up in smoke after losing 1-0 to Shivajians
There was no end to East Bengal's misery as lowly-placed DSK Shivajians handed them their fourth loss on the trot with a 1-0 win in the I-League here on Sunday.
The decisive move came in the 29th minute when Man of the Match Jerry Mawihmingthanga beat an offside trap to head past East Bengal goalkeeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, dashing their slender hopes of winning the title, which has remained elusive so far. Halicharan Narzary began the move in an one-two from the corner and his pass to Juan Quero Barraso was curled in by the former Real Madrid player.
Credit should also be given to the veteran Subrata Paul who stood like a wall as East Bengal's repeated attacks were thwarted by the India goalkeeper.
Paul's best came minutes after they went up as he pulled off saves from back to back attacks by Rowllin Borges. He also stood tall with another brilliant save, punching off a move from Borges at the stroke of half time.
A desperate East Bengal went ahead with a flurry of attacks in the fag end of the match, but Paul was simply unbreakable, never letting the duo of Jackichand Singh and Wedson Anselme restore parity.
The Trevor Morgan-coached side's loss has come after its 1-2 derby defeat to Mohun Bagan and the club also lost to Chennai City and Churchill Brothers by identical margins. The third placed team is set to plummet further, with 27 points from 16 rounds.
For the eighth-placed Pune outfit, which had lost 1-2 in the first leg, this was their second win over East Bengal, coming after more than a year when they had blanked them 2-0 on March 6 last year.
Both teams now have a 2-2 win-loss record.
His future at the club under scrutiny, Morgan went ahead with a new 3-4-3 formation, making five changes as Bikash Jairu made his first start in over seven months after an injury layoff.
Jackichand and Robin were also back in the side for the must-win match.
Having triggered a massive backlash from supporters for allegedly showing the middle finger, East Bengal's regular goalkeeper TP Rehenesh missed his first match in 15 games. On loan from ISL franchise North-East United, the Kerala goalkeeper was sent back home and his future is uncertain with the red-and-gold brigade.