Dudu's latre strike revives East Bengal's fortune
Barasat (West Bengal), Feb 4 (PTI) An injury minute strike by Dudu Omagbemi helped East Bengal revive their title bid with a narrow 1-0 win over Indian Arrows in a Hero I-League football match, here today.
Winless from four matches, East Bengal had virtually given up on their title hope, squandering at least half a dozen chances but the veteran Nigerian's 90+3rd minute header gave them a fresh lease of life in a nail-biting finish.
With five matches remaining, East Bengal (23 points) jumped past arch-rivals Mohun Bagan (20) to reclaim the third spot, four points shy of leaders Neroca FC (27).
It was heartbreak for Indian youngsters as they put up a stellar defence, only to fall short in the dying minutes as East Bengal managed to keep pace in the title race with the injury time winner.
East Bengal, who won by a 2-0 margin in the first leg in New Delhi, will next face second-placed Minerva Punjab in an crucial away fixture on February 13.
Nothing was going in favour of the Khalid Jamil's wards, who were denied by the woodwork in the first half while the developmental side of the All India Football Federation gave them scare more than a few occasions with their spirited attack.
Just when the crowd were about to return home dejected, substitute Mohammed Rafique set it up with a long ball as Dudu rose to the occasion for a vital finish.
Arrows goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Gill was out of the line and it was just the perfect opportunity for Dudu to find the back of the net with a looping header.
Until then it was hits and misses for both the teams.
Arrows forward Abhijit Sarkar had a golden opportunity to seize the initiative when he found himself in a one-on-one position with CK Ubaid but he hit the ball straight at the East Bengal custodian.
Katsumi Yusa has been the livewire for East Bengal but they were unlucky in the first-half.
Arrows survived a scare in the 34th minute when Dudu hit the woodwork from a tight angle.
Yusa was in his elements in creating opportunities and even scored from an off-side position but he never found the right coordination with Dudu.
Dudu struck a powerful header in the 28th minute but Gill stood in the way as goals continued to elude East Bengal till the Nigerian finally got into the act before it was all over.
The developmental outfit of the AIFF made a flurry of attacks in the closing stage of the first half but they kept missing the target as the stalemate continued.
In what appeared their best chance of the match, Sanjeev Stalin set it up with a brilliant cross but Rahul KP headed it out with East Bengal custodian Ubaid coming out of his line