Updated: Jan 13
Panaji, Jan 9: SC East Bengal won their Hero Indian Super League clash against Bengaluru FC 1-0 at the Fatorda Stadium on Saturday night, courtesy Matti Steinmann's 20th-minute goal, a resolute defensive display, and goalkeeper Debjit Majumder's five crucial saves.
It was the eleventh meeting between the two sides across all competitions, with the previous ten occurring in the Hero I-League (8), the Federation Cup (1), and the Super Cup (1). The Red-and-Golds lead the head-to-head record 7-4.
Unbeaten in their last four matches, SCEB started their tenth Hero ISL fixture and fifth 'away' game this season with only one change as Jacques Maghoma returned to the XI in place of Aaron Amadi-Holloway. Assistant Coach Tony Grant was in charge of this contest as Robbie Fowler was serving a one-match touchline suspension.
SCEB, clad in their white-and-blue kit, had their first scoring opportunity early on when Narayan Das' shot was kept out by BFC custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu for a corner in the 8th minute.
Nine minutes later, BFC came close to getting their first goal when Cleiton Silva's header bounced in front and went over the crossbar.
The deadlock was broken in the 20th minute when midfielder Matti Steinmann scored the only goal of the night and his third in the Hero ISL so far.
It was the product of a well-executed move as Ankit Mukherjee's lofted cross from the right flank saw Narayan on the left play a low cross to Steinmann, who slotted the ball in calmly. In the process, the German registered his fifth goal contribution (three goals and two assists) this season.
Having earned the lead, SCEB played with more confidence and created two more opportunities in the remainder of the first half.
In the 26th minute, Mukherjee and Narayan combined once again to build up an attack as the former's cross from near the byline was met by the latter with a diving effort at the far post, which went wide of target.
A couple of minutes later, Harmanpreet Singh had a chance inside the BFC 18-yard area, but couldn't get on the end of a cross from Bright Enobakhare.
The second-half saw BFC enhance their attack by bringing on Kristian Opseth in place of Udanta Singh. Soon after, in the 49th minute, Opseth and BFC captain Sunil Chhetri combined in a bid to equalise, but Chhetri's shot on target was parried away by Majumder for a corner.
Chhetri tested Majumder twice more in the space of just four minutes as his goal-bound shots were thwarted on both occasions by Majumder's diving saves in the 58th and 62nd minutes.
Enobakhare nearly doubled the lead and netted his third Hero ISL goal in as many matches in the 78th minute when he beat Namgyal Bhutia to fire in a shot on target, which forced a brilliant save from Gurpreet.
Three minutes later, the Nigerian produced an even better effort as he was in a one-on-one position with the BFC goalkeeper, after entering the opposition box with a solo run. However, a sliding tackle from Gurpreet dispossessed him of the ball.
In the end, the 'visitors' managed to hold on to their slender 1-0 lead and bag their second win in the competition. They remain at the ninth spot on the points table with ten points from ten games (two wins, four draws, and four losses) and extend their unbeaten run to five matches.
Speaking about the game at the virtual post-match Press conference, Grant said, 'In football, one goal is never enough normally and Bengaluru are a good team...Our boys showed that we can play with the ball in the first half, and we also showed that we can defend. So, it was a good day for them.'
Majumder was adjudged the Hero of the Match. He currently tops the list pertaining to total saves made this season with 33 saves.
SCEB play their second leg fixture against Kerala Blasters FC next, at the Tilak Maidan Stadium on 15 January.