East Bengal, coming in on the back of a stunning 1-0 victory in the Kolkata derby over Mohun Bagan Super Giant last Saturday, continued marching on in the Durand Cup 2023.
They beat Punjab FC, the latest entrant into the Indian Super League, by the same 1-0 margin to go to the top of the group standings. Former Hyderabad FC players Borja Herrera and Javi Siverio combined to score the first goal for the Torchbearers (22'). This gave them a lead that could not be assailed till the end.
While the left-footed Herrera sent a teasing cross from just in front of the right corner, Siverio jumped up over the defenders of Punjab FC and headed a clean strike past their goalkeeper Kiran Chemjong. This win sends the Torchbearers through to the quarterfinals of the Durand Cup 2023 as the toppers of Group A.
Their defenders, led by skipper Harmanjot Khabra, were on point throughout the game and rarely let the Punjab FC attackers beat them with guile or pace. This is a victory that manager Carles Cuadrat can be very proud of.
On that note, let us take a look at the player ratings for East Bengal in this game against Punjab FC.
Player ratings for East Bengal
Prabhsukhan Singh Gill (7)
Goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Singh Gill, who was signed up by the Torchbearers from Kerala Blasters ahead of this season, proved his mettle between the goalposts. His composure, when put under pressure, as well as his handling, was refreshing to see.
Harmanjot Khabra (7)
Skipper Harmanjot Khabra was solid on the flanks and ensured that no Punjab FC attackers could pass him by easily. The pace he displayed helped his attackers set up play for his team. Khabra keeps going from strength to strength.
Lal Chungnunga (6.5)
Despite picking up a yellow card in the second half, Lal Chungnunga was solid in his positioning in the heart of the defence. His man-marking skills came under scrutiny, but he managed to hold his own.
Jordan Elsey (6)
Jordan Elsey, who came under scanner for the horrendous mistake he made against Bangladesh Army in East Bengal's first game, was more or less on point in this match.
Nishu Kumar (6.5)
Nishu Kumar, who was also signed from Kerala Blasters on loan earlier this season, was impressive with his pace. Nishu's man-marking skills as well as interception of crosses came in handy for the Torchbearers.
Saul Crespo (7)
Saul Crespo's ability to control the play with strings, in a manner of speaking, from the heart of midfield, is what brought him to East Bengal from Odisha FC. He was calculative with his passing and breaking up of play as well.
Souvik Chakrabarti (7.5)
The box-to-box midfielder, who was signed by East Bengal ahead of the 2022-23 season from Hyderabad FC, was immaculate with his tackles. His positioning in not allowing the Punjab attackers to run free also needs to be applauded.
Borja Herrera (7.5)
Midfielder Borja Herrera, who put a looping cross into the box for Siverio to head home for the goal that East Bengal scored, will be proud of his showing. His piercing passes often found many an attacking midfielder of East Bengal.
Naorem Mahesh Singh (7)
Mahesh Singh's pace on the flanks helped the Torchbearers tremendously and coach Carles Cuadrat will hope that the India international continues in the same vein of form.
Nandhakumar Sekar (7.5)
Nandhakumar Sekar, who, along with Saul Crespo, made the trip further east from Odisha FC earlier this season, impressed all and sundry with the stunning goal he scored in the derby last weekend. In this match, he was near-perfect with his crosses as well as intent in front of the goal.
Javi Siverio (8)
The former Hyderabad striker combined well with his compatriot and former Yellow and Black teammate Borja Herrera to head home the goal scored by East Bengal. His positioning was heartening, as was his speed.
Antonio Jose Pardo (7)
Antonio Jose Padro, who made his East Bengal debut in this match, impressed his club's supporters with his composure. His passing and distribution were pin-point.
Cleiton Silva (7.5)
Club captain Cleiton Silva, who turned up for the team after a lengthy layoff owing to visa issues at the Brazilian embassy, was at the heart of things after coming off the bench. His shooting skills have not got rusty at all, despite him not scoring in that match.
Edwin Vanspaul (6.5)
Edwin Vanspaul, who came off the bench along with Cleiton Silva, was good with his precise passing, but little else. He could have done better to shield his defenders in the box.
Mohamad Rakip (6)
Mohamad Rakip, who came on with hardly seven minutes of regular time left on the clock, was impressive in patches for sure. However, he will be hoping for more game time in this competition.
Suhair VP (6.5)
Suhair VP, who came on with Mohamad Rakip, was good whenever the ball came to him. He passed it on exquisitely and tried to set up the other attackers in his side.