Barasat (West Bengal), April 23 (IANS) East Bengal finally broke their losing streak with a 3-1 victory over Minerva Punjab FC in an I-League encounter at the Barasat District Sports Stadium here on Sunday.
East Bengal strikers Wedson Anselme (31st minute) and Robin Singh (52nd) struck on either side of the break before Bikash Jairu (90th) scored the best goal of the match in the closing stages as the Kolkata giants claimed victory in front of their home crowd.
The visitors had created several chances throughout the match, but were let down repeatedly by poor finishing.
They finally managed to breach the East Bengal citadel in the dying seconds when Krishna Pandit (90+4) scored with virtually the last kick of the game.
East Bengal thus cemented their hold on the third place in the league table with 30 points from 17 matches.
Minerva are now in real danger of relegation as they slipped one spot to the bottom of the 10-team ladder.
The team from Punjab remains on 12 points, the same as ninth placed Mumbai FC, but have a poorer goal difference.
This is the first win for East Bengal after a run of four consecutive losses.
That disastrous run saw them lose to Churchill Brothers SC, Chennai City FC, arch-rivals Mohun Bagan and DSK Shivajians to crash out of title contention.
Those troubled times also prompted them to sack Trevor Morgan as coach.
East Bengal started strongly and dominated the early exchanges but the three-man Minerva defence managed to repeatedly catch forwards Jackichand Singh and Wedson offside.
The hosts missed an excellent chance in the 17th minute when Jackichand intercepted a square pass from Minerva’s Germanpreet Singh and found Wedson who managed to go past his marker.
But Wedson’s touch was too strong and Minerva goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh came off his line to collect the ball. Referee Ajitkumar Meitei however, did show a yellow card to Arshdeep.
The hosts had a narrow escape in the 29th minute when Minerva forward Victor Amobi intercepted a pass from East Bengal’s Rowlinson Borges and unleashed a shot from close range.
East Bengal goalkeeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury managed to get a hand to the ball which was still going in, but Gurwinder Singh produced a desperate lunge to send it out for a corner.
The visitors were left to regret that missed chance soon after when the hosts took the lead through Wedson who exploited some loose marking by the Minerva defence to head in an accurate cross from the right flank by Rahul Bheke.
East Bengal continued to dominate after the break and earned a penalty when Minerva defender Moinuddin accidentally handled a cross ino the penalty box by Robin Singh.
The referee pointed to the spot and Robin stepped up to double the hosts’ lead.
In the 60th minute, Amobi went past several East Bengal players to go inside the penalty box but he backpassed to Germanpreet who powered his shot over the bar.
Jairu produced the best goal of the match when Wedson found him on the left flank with an excellent pass. Jairu made a speedy run to the opposition box, and beat Minerva goalkeeper Kamaljit Singh with a superb finish.
East Bengal were however deprived of a clean sheet a couple of minutes later when Krishna Pandit scored a consolation goal for the club from Punjab.
This is published unedited from the IANS feed.