Ralte double sinks Pune FC
A brace from Lalrindika Ralte saw East Bengal beat Pune FC 3-1 in a round 25 encounter of the Airtel I-League at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Saturday.
Edeh Chidi put East Bengal in front while Ralte doubled the advantage before the interval. Mirjan Pavlovic pulled one back for the visitors in the second half but Ralte sealed the points by netting the third.
The red-and-gold brigade have now recorded three straight I-League wins for the first time since November 2012 and it moves them within four points of table toppers Bengaluru FC with a game in hand while Pune are now winless in six I-League fixtures.
East Bengal saw plenty of the ball in the early stages while Pune were happy to defend in numbers.
The deadlock was broken when Chidi controlled Ryuji Sueoka's cross at the far post and slotted the ball past Amrinder Singh.
It was a deserved lead for East Bengal and they continued to attack with Ralte's shot narrowly missing the target.
Having gone 1-0 behind, Pune finally came out of their shell and had their first real effort when Prakash Thorat chested down a long ball for Arata Izumi but the India International blasted his shot over the bar.
East Bengal's skipper for the day, Harmanjot Khabra, nearly made it 2-0 after being picked out in the box by Chidi but his shot went wide.
As the half progressed Pune's Gabriel Fernandes started to look dangerous as he was going past players with ease. His shooting however lacked accuracy while at the other end young right back Abhishek Das produced a fine sole run but couldn't hit the target.
The second goal came after a quick counter attack as Cavin Lobo's pass sent Sueoka clean through on goal and the Japanese unselfishly set up Ralte, who had the easiest of tap-ins.
Pune coach Mike Snoei introduced Australian striker Pavlovic at the start of the second period and his side looked to make a fast start after the interval.
Riga Mustapha tested Abhra Mondal and it was end-to-end action as East Bengal also looked like scoring again. The home side wasted a great opportunity when Chidi flicked on Joaquim Abranches' corner for Arnab Mondal but the defender headed straight at Amrinder.
Pune's improvement in the second half finally paid off when Pavlovic got in behind the East Bengal backline after a nice through ball by Mustapha and the former A-League striker scored with a powerful shot.
Suddenly it became a very open game with both sides creating openings. East Bengal had to rely on some desperate last-ditch defending to preserve their lead.
Armando Colaco's side needed another goal and it arrived at a time when Pune were threatening to make it 2-2. Cavin Lobo produced a good run following a counter attack and his cutback was slotted home by Ralte with a brilliant strike.
Pune tried their best to get back into the game with Pavlovic and Anthony D'Souza going close but East Bengal did enough to register another important victory.
East Bengal 3 (Chidi 18, Ralte 43, 70) beat Pune FC 1 (Pavlovic 58)
(Posted on 12-04-2014)