KOLKATA: East Bengal beat defending champions Army Red 2-0 to begin their campaign in the 129th Durand Cup on Saturday at East Bengal Ground.
Goals from Jaime Santos Colado (85′) and Bidyashagar Singh (90+1′) were enough to hand East Bengal their first win of the season.
The game got off to a lively opening five minutes, with East Bengal impressing with some neat football.
Alejandro Menendez’s charges played with verve and used a short, sharp passing style to get beyond the Army defense. During one such attack, Lalrindika Ralte created a moment of uncertainty in the Army penalty area, but, fortunately, Army defenders were able to clear the danger.
But once things settled down, both teams made sure they kept things tight and compact. Both defenses were organised and kept shape, and scoring chances were few and far between.
Nonetheless, East Bengal gave a good account of themselves in the later stages of the half, and should have been ahead by half-time, had not Colado and Boithang Haokip struck the post in the span of five minutes.
Army, on the other hand, sat back and tried to catch them on the counter, but in the end, both teams went into the break locked at 0-0.
Back from recess, East Bengal continued to dominate, but were unable to really stretch the Army defense and create scoring chances from open play. Colado, however, twice threatened with shots from distance.
Nonetheless, as the game progressed Army began to control the proceedings with greater possession and looked more threatening going forward, thanks to crisp passing, good off-the-ball movement and dazzling individual skills
Although the introduction of winger Pintu Mahata in the 60th minute spiced up East Bengal’s attack but Army kept their shape and discipline.
But the pressure eventually told as Army keeper Mohammed Shanoos manhandled Bidhyashagar Singh just outside the box when he was looking though on goal, which did not only earned Shanoos a striaght red but also gave East Bengal a free-kick on the edge of the box.
Colado stepped up to take the free-kick as slotted past substitute keeper Chandra Bahadur Tamang with ease to give his side the lead in the 85th minute.
Army, to their credit, never gave up and tried to script a miraculous comeback with 10-man, but as the Army pressing forward, their could always be the chance the other way, materialising when Samad Ali Mallick’s pass picked out Bidyashagar to produce a fine strike in stoppage time to put the game beyond doubt.
East Bengal will face Jamshedpur FC next on Agust 6 while Army Red is scheduled to face Bengaluru FC on August 5.