Captain Cleiton’s heroics ensure 3 points vs Hyderabad

The Red and Gold Brigade started their Kalinga Super Cup 2024 campaign with a thrilling 3-2 win over Hyderabad FC in a Group A encounter at the Kalinga Stadium on Tuesday. Cleiton Silva scored a brace and Saul Crespo netted the third goal, which proved to be the difference at the end of an exciting encounter.

The match was an entertaining affair, with both teams creating chances and showing attacking intent. East Bengal had the first big opportunity in the eighth minute, when Nishu Kumar’s cross from the left was headed down by Silva to Nandhakumar, who volleyed the ball against the crossbar. Silva, who has been East Bengal’s most prolific scorer this season, broke the deadlock in the 33rd minute, when he volleyed home a precise cross from Mohamad Rakip on the right flank.

Hyderabad FC, who fielded an all-Indian lineup, did not give up and equalised in the 45th minute, when Mohammad Rafi’s through ball found Lalchhanhima Sailo on the right, who cut back the ball to Ramhlunchhunga, who slotted the ball past the keeper. The first half ended with the scoreline 1-1.

The second half saw more drama, as Silva restored East Bengal’s lead in the 54th minute with a stunning free-kick from 30 yards, curling the ball into the top corner. Hyderabad FC fought back again and won a penalty in the 79th minute, when Souvik Chakrabarti fouled Ramhlunchhunga inside the box. Tamang stepped up and converted the spot-kick to make it 2-2.

However, East Bengal had the last laugh, as Crespo, who came on as a substitute, scored the decisive goal in the 80th minute, heading in a corner from Borja Herrera. The match ended with East Bengal securing three crucial points and Hyderabad FC suffering a narrow defeat.

Reflecting on the win after the final whistle, Coach Cuadrat said, “We’re very happy with the performance. It was important to start the tournament with three points so we met the target. The performance was good. We’ve been defensively very good in the last game, but we conceded twice today. We’re in a position to improve and are going to look forward to the next match,”

East Bengal FC will face Mohun Bagan SG in their next match on 13 January, marking the first derby of 2024 and the 3rd derby of the season.

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