East Bengal extended its good form in the domestic league to the continental stage, downing Balestier Khalsa FC of Singapore 3-0, in a Group F match of the AFC Cup at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Tuesday.
Baldeep Singh drew first blood for the host in the first half, before it scored two more through Nurullah Hussein (own goal) and Ranti Martins in the second to register its first victory in the tournament. The win also helped the Kolkata outfit avenge the 1-2 loss to Khalsa in Singapore last month.
East Bengal, resting most of the regulars for the first part of the match, was well served by the seasoned Shylo Malswamtluanga, Baljit Singh, and Subodh Kumar. Baljit Sahni, along with Baldeep, formed the strike-force. The former had the first opportunity in the ninth minute, but his attempt went wide after hitting a Khalsa defender.
In the 21st minute, Baldeep used his height to good effect to beat the Khalsa defence and nod home. Midfielder Mohammad Rafiq saw his attempt deflect wide off a Khalsa defender, and Baldeep slammed home the corner-kick taken by Malswamtluanga.
East Bengal’s Dutch coach Eelco Schattorie decided to introduce a few regulars after the break, bringing in both the Nigerian strikers — Dudu Omagbemi and Martins — by the 67th minute.
East Bengal doubled the lead in the 71st minute when Khalsa defender Hussein miscued a clearance off a cross from Baldeep and deflected the ball into his own net. This virtually ended Khalsa’s hopes of making a comeback and Martins put the issue beyond doubt, scoring East Bengal’s third goal off an assist from Baldeep in the 75th minute.
The win took East Bengal’s tally to four points from as many matches. The Kolkata side, which is now third in the table, will host Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia at the same venue on April 28.
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