Kolkata, Dec 27: East Bengal defeated 10-men Gokulam Kerala FC 1-0 in an I-League encounter at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Wednesday to climb to the top of the points table.
Mohammed Rafique (44th minute) scored the only goal of the game just before half-time and the hosts held on to the slender advantage til the end.
East Bengal are now at the top of the I-League table with 13 points from six matches. Second-placed Minerva Punjab also have the same number of points, but trail the Kolkata giants due to an inferior goal difference. Gokulam are at the eighth spot in the 10-team table with four points from five matches.
The Calicut-based side had an early setback as their midfield general Khaled Alsaleh had to be taken off in the 10th minute owing to an injury. However, it was the hosts who had the first sniff on the goal. A corner from East Bengal’s Japanese star Katsumi Yusa was punched out by Gokulam goalkeeper Bilal Khan in the 14th minute. Rafique’s audacious chip off the rebound almost found the net but the custodian did well to leap back and parry the ball out.
Three minutes later, East Bengal substitute Francis Ambane launched an audacious freekick from range beating Luis Barreto but he only hit the crossbar.
Gokulam striker Stephane Kamo Bayi also had a chance from the edge of the box as he rounded up Eduardo Ferreira but his shot was off target. While Ambane and Arjun Jayaraj marshalled the Gokulam troops in midfield, East Bengal had little opportunities.
However, it were the hosts who broke the deadlock a minute before the halftime whistle. Santu Singh conceded a corner kick that East Bengla’s midfield star Mahmoud Al Am sent in.
Vicky Meitei cleared it for Gokulam but Rafique who was just outside the box chested the ball down and hit home from the bounce, giving Jamil some solace heading into the halftime break. (IANS)