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I-League 2018-19: Real Kashmir 1-2 East Bengal – Esqueda, Santos keep East Bengal in title race, at least for a day

Avik Roy
28 Feb 2019, 20:02 IST

Esqueda scored a goal and provided an assist
Esqueda scored a goal and provided an assist

East Bengal had to witness some nervous moments before they scraped past Real Kashmir 2-1 to keep themselves in the title race, at least for a day. Real Kashmir are now out of race after suffering their third defeat of the campaign at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Thursday, 28th February.

Chennai City could win the title tomorrow if they beat Churchill Brothers. Chennai would reach to 43 points, a number which even East Bengal can’t match even if win rest of their two matches. The Red and Golds are now on 2nd position with 36 points from 18 matches. Real Kashmir remained on 33 points from the same number of matches, though a decision is pending on the court regarding their match against Minerva Punjab.

Enrique Esqueda broke the deadlock 20th minute, heading home Laldanmawia Ralte’s cross. Jaime Santos increased the lead for East Bengal in the 43rd minute. Aaron Katebe reduced the margin in the 67th minute from the spot.

Let us look at the major talking points of the game.

#3 Esqueda-Santos scores in the absence of Jobby Justin

For the first time this season, East Bengal fielded a side which didn’t have Jobby Justin. The Keralite was handed a suspension that could increase further, just a few days ago. So, Real Kashmir match was an acid test for East Bengal about how they cope up the absence of Justin when it comes to scoring a goal. Thankfully, it was their trusted guards Enrique Esqueda and Jamie Santos who took over the goal-scoring mantle.

This East Bengal team have more prolific goal scorers other than Justin. For example, both Laldanmawia Ralte and Esqueda had found the net seven times before this match. Santos, on the other hand, scored two goals. On a day the team demanded more from them, Esqueda and Santos passed the test successfully.

It was the Mexican striker who broke the deadlock in the 20th minute. Laldanmawia Ralte got a beautiful through ball on the right side and perfectly crossed it to Esqueda, who was unmarked. The Mexican met the ball with precision. This was the second time that Laldanmawia provided an assist.

Esqueda then turned to be the assist provider when he crossed it for Santos. The young Spaniard jumped to stroke the ball past Bilal Khan.

East Bengal will need to depend on these people for the rest of the two matches in their campaign, and also for the Super Cup if Justin’s suspension increased.

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