East Bengal fought back from a goal down to beat Churchill Brothers 2-1 and register a hat-trick number of victories for the first time this I-League season. Jaime Colado scored his debut goal for the Kolkata giants, while Lalrindika Ralte added to the score as East Bengal pushed the Goan club to their second successive defeat at the Tilak Maidan Stadium on Thursday.
The victory – their third on the trot – helped East Bengal jump to second in the points table with 15 from eight games. Churchill after their after their second successive loss are placed fifth with 13 from a match more.
Willis Plaza struck early against his former side slotting the ball past Rakshit Dagar in the third minute after Dawda Ceesay’s square ball for him had evaded defender Borja Gomes.
But East Bengal, fresh from their thrilling derby win against arch-rivals Mohun Bagan and second victory on the trot, bounced back from the early setback and could have equalised minutes later through Kassim Aidara but his shot from outside the box sailed inched wide of the net.
Their persistence, however, paid off after the half-hour mark when new signing Colado scored a stunner to bring the visitors level into the contest. The Spaniard, a Sporting Gijon graduate, rifled Ralte’s curling corner on top right corner with a powerful first-time volley in the 35th minute.
East Bengal had another opportunity to take the lead six minutes after the break when Gomez’s long-ball from the back found Jobby Justin clear on goal but the striker blasted his effort over the bar.
Churchill, who were now struggling to hold back a relentless East Bengal team, found their only opportunity in the 56th minute after Plaza set him up for a shot which disappointingly landed on the stands. Derby hero Laldanmawia Ralte had another effort hit the side-netting for the visitors.
The miss, however, did little harm as in the 79th minute Lalrindika gave East Bengal the lead from a free-kick that escaped everyone including goalkeeper Vigneshwaran Baskaran into the net.
The hosts played the final few minutes of the match with an additional man after Bali Gagandeep was booked twice inside three minutes before marching off the pitch.