All India Football Federation’s developmental side Indian Arrows sprung a major upset by defeating Kolkata giants Quess East Bengal 1-0 at the Kalyani Municipality Stadium on Saturday. Arrows skipper Vikram Partap Singh scored the match-winning goal in the 58th minute.
New East Bengal head coach Mario Rivera Campesino made two changes to the previous line-up. Marti Crespi was reinstated, having served his one-match suspension, with the other change being the introduction of Tondomba Naorem, in place of Kassim Aidara.
Indian Arrows head coach Shanmugam Venkatesh recalled Biaka Jongte under the woodwork, having preferred Samik Mitra against Real Kashmir. Saurabh Meher and Ajin Tom also returned to the line-up comprising a 4-5-1.
The Red and Golds were clear favourites, having put in a fine performance against Chennai to put an end to a miserable losing streak and now in front of their Kalyani faithful, the comeback script seemed apparent.
They had quite a number of chances, with each squandered opportunity amounting to a costly price, of fading in the title hunt. Marcos De La Espada had the first of many when an inch-perfect cross-field delivery from Tondomba Naorem found the Spaniard, but his first touch was too heavy, which allowed Ajin Tom enough time to make the cover and block his attempt.
Five minutes later, it was Espada’s compatriot Crespi, who missed from barely a couple of yards from the target, despite being unmarked and Lalrindika Ralte’s immaculate delivery.
The Arrows fabricated a chance against the run of play. Vikram, with no room to run, produced an audacious back flick, which nutmegged two Red & Golds pair of legs and found Nikhil Raj, but his first touch deceived him, allowing Mirshad in goal to make a routine, yet fine save.
A pile-driver from Lalrindika Ralte came agonisingly close in the half-hour mark, evading the far post by a whisker but the game finished goalless at the break. East Bengal were fancied to ride on the ascendency and draw first blood. In the 55th minute, Espada’s timely layoff fell to Jaime Santos Colado should have ideally broken the deadlock, but in this instance, completed a triumvirate of misses.
In the 58th minute, Vikram Pratap’s thunderous strike went in off the underside of the crossbar to stun the Kalyani crowd, with Givson Singh joining him in the celebratory sprint having provided the layoff to put him through.
Ansumana Kromah came on as a substitute and had two chances to write his homecoming in shades of red and gold. The first being in the 71st minute when he tapped in a driven delivery from the left, but couldn’t time his run and was flagged offside.
Indian Arrows keeper Jongte had arguably the game of his life, having produced an array of fine saves throughout. In the 81st minute, a close-range header was responded to by the young keeper, producing a wonderful fingertip save.
In the 85th minute, a 35-yard piledriver from Crespi was kept out by Jongte but the rebound fell to Kromah but the Liberian blasted over the crossbar with an open goal in front. Quess East Bengal’s proverbial salt to their wounds were added when Espada was sent off for a reckless studs-up challenge in the stoppage time.
Indian Arrows weathered the late storm and held on to their lead for the three points, and a huge round of applause from the Kalyani attendees. The victory takes them to seven points whilst still being bottom, but Quess East Bengal’s bid for the Hero I-League crown seems to have faded away a step further. They rest at sixth with 11 points from nine outings.