Cleiton Silva propels East Bengal FC to maiden win over Kerala Blasters FC

Friday night was special for East Bengal FC at Kolkata’s VYBK as they rode their Brazilian forward Cleiton Silva’s 77 th minute strike to register their maiden win over Kerala Blasters FC.

Despite finishing the game with ten men, after midfielder Mobashir Rahman was sent off in the 94 th minute, the Red & Gold brigade managed to hold on to their 1-0 lead and bag their second Hero ISL 2022-23 home victory, and first in five matches.

EBFC Head Coach Stephen Constantine made four changes to the starting XI as Alex Lima, Ankit Mukherjee, Sarthak Golui and Jake Jervis came in for Ivan Gonzalez, Lalchungnunga, Sumeet Passi and Jordan O’Doherty.

Before the kick-off, a minute’s silence was observed in honour of East Bengal legend Parimal Dey, who passed away on 1 st February 2023.

The match proved to be intense from the outset. In the seventh minute, Adrian Luna whipped a corner into the box, which Rahul KP tried to nod in with a free header. However, it was saved by Kamaljit Singh and kept off the line by VP Suhair.

In the 16 th minute, Constantine made an early substitution as Mohamad Rakip replaced Ankit Mukherjee on the right flank.

Three minutes before the half-time break, Naorem Mahesh Singh’s cross from the left flank was flicked on towards Suhair at the far post by league debutant Jervis. The winger from Kerala tried to slot the ball in, but the goal was ruled offside.

A few minutes later, during the first-half stoppage time, EBFC demanded a penalty after KBFC custodian Karanjit Singh pulled off a double save to keep Cleiton at bay. However, Suhair’s header went marginally wide of the far post from the resulting corner.

The home side got the coveted lead in the 77 th minute when Mahesh charged down the left flank and cut the ball back across the face of the goal. The low ball picked up a deflection off Karanjit before being poked in by Cleiton, who netted his 10 th Hero ISL 2022-23 goal in the process. The EBFC captain is currently the league’s joint-top scorer this season along with FC Goa’s Iker Guarrotxena. He’s also the first East Bengal player after Ranti Martins in the 2015-16 I-League to score 10-plus goals in a single edition of India’s top-flight league.

Although the Kolkata Club managed to keep their slender lead intact, they were dealt with a major blow when Mobashir received his marching orders in the second-half stoppage time for picking up a second yellow card in the game.VP Suhair is also supposed to miss his team’s next game against NorthEast United FC after picking up his seventh yellow card in the game.

While the result made no difference to the standings, EBFC (15 points- 5 wins and 11 losses) gained 3 crucial points to narrow the gap with the eighth placed Chennaiyin FC, who have amassed 18 points from 16 games (4 wins, 6 draws and 6 defeats).

Addressing the media after the game, Constantine said, “I thought the intensity level was super from the beginning to the end. No player wants to make a mistake, no Coach wants to make a mistake but mistakes happen, it’s what you do after the mistake that defines you, and I think today was fantastic.”

Silva, who accompanied Constantine for the post-match press conference, spoke about his newly formed partnership with Jervis, “I think he will be a good asset for us because Jake is tall, he has speed, he has good control of the ball and (is) good on the legs. When I have the ball, I can look forward and see him, like I have Mahesh and Suhair. Now I have Jake as well.” The Red & Golds will host NorthEast United FC in the season’s penultimate home clash at the
VYBK on February 8, Wednesday.