Landanmawia Ralte struck a hat-trick as a rampaging East Bengal toyed with Shillong Lajong FC for a 5-0 thrashing, their fourth consecutive win in the I-League on Thursday. Ralte struck in the 8th, 27th and 61st minutes while Jobby Justin (28th) and Enrique Esqueda (45th) scored one each in the first half, helping East Bengal cut the deficit to three points with leaders Chennai City FC with a match in hand.
Their fourth win on the trot took East Bengal past their Sunday’s opponents Churchill Brothers to the third place in the table, giving their maiden I-League title pursuit a huge boost in front of about 25,000 turnout. Real Kashmir are second in the table with 32 points, having played 16 matches, compared to East Bengal’s 15.
By denying Shillong Lajong a single goal, East Bengal’s goal difference (14) also got a big fillip. Chennai City have a goal difference of 15.
Fresh from two wins in a row, the bottom-placed Shillong Lajong FC came out with a lot of hopes, but the young outfit were simply outplayed and left demoralised by the home side. Starting up front in place of Jaime Colado, Enrique Esqueda, along with Jobby, pressed hard from the beginning and the home side completely dominated the possession.
The opening goal came from a clinical Lalrindika Ralte corner when Laldanmawia scored from a free-header. Two minutes later, Jobby almost doubled the lead from a Lalrindika freekick only to see his header go wide.
East Bengal maintained the majority of possession and the Shillong outfit did not get a single chance till Samuel Kynshi’s 22th-minute freekick sailed over the bar. The red-and-gold brigade kept pressing hard and Laldanmawia capitalised on a long through ball by Borja Gomez to double the lead in the 27th minute.
Before the visitors could blink, East Bengal made it 3-0, this time Jobby scoring, heading home into an empty net from Esqueda’s clever placement. It was Antonio Dovale who set it up for Esqueda with a long ball and the Mexican brilliantly shot the ball over Shillong goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa.
Lalrindika Ralte set up another goal for East Bengal and this time Esqueda found the name on the scoresheet to give them a 4-0 lead at half time.
Jaime who is recovering from a neck injury was brought at the hour mark and the Spaniard brilliantly dribbled past a Shillong defender before setting up Landanmawia’s third goal.
(With PTI Inputs)