Kolkata: Dudu Omagbemi’s first hat-trick in over three months kept East Bengal alive in the race for a maiden I-League title helping them drub Chennai City 7-1 at the Viveknanda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium here on Saturday.
The Nigerian scored four goals and helped by Dharamraj Ravanan’s own goal (23rd), Mahmoud Amnah (28th minute) and Gabriel Fernandes (84th) all of whom found the net, East Bengal moved to second.
They stand on 29 points, the same as Minerva Punjab on third but Red and Golds are higher by virtue of a better goal difference and have played a match more than the ‘Warriors’ who have played 15.
Just how crucial was this encounter for the hosts was evident as people flocked in two-hours prior to kick-off and banners adorned the stands by the time both teams came-out to warm-up.
One of them read “Dori dhare maro taan, Sarkar Raj khan khan / trophy jadi nao pai, cut money khao aa chai.” in Bengali and had substitue Md. Rafique waving at it. But while it criticised the club’s officials for their lackluster behaviour and functioning, on this occasion it pumped up the players.
Rafique remains one of the only few players in the club, capable of reading and understanding Bengali and though he didn’t feature against Chennai, the rest looked pumped up from the moment go.
Cheered on by fans at every move and helped by a strong home support, the Red and Golds dominated for the full 90 minutes and had it not been for a couple of wonderful saves by Kabir T, they could well have won by a bigger margin.
A scoreline of 7-1 however remains the second largest victory by goals for East Bengal. 8-1 defeat of HAL in Bengaluru five years ago till date is their biggest victory in terms of goals.
But Chennai City will have to curse themselves for the scoreline. Defensive lapses were recurring throughout the match and it more than less assisted East Bengal in taking control.
Lalram Chullova’s long ball from inside his own-half found Amnah clear on goal and although goalkeeper Kabir parried away the Syrian’s first shot, he had all time to attempt another two as defenders kept on ball watching. It was in the 20th minute and three minutes later it was Chullova again, this time Ravanan putting the Mizoram boy’s low-cross into the net.
Amnah could have had a couple more in the next 10 minutes but while he missed both the opportunities, compatriot Dudu netted his first in the 32nd minute.
Long crosses seemed to trouble the Chennai defence all afternoon and 32 year-old Dudu made most of it scoring four goals in a space of 30 minutes. His first came in the 32nd minute and by the time he completed his hat-trick and netted a fourth it was just 61st minute in the clock.
Three of those four goals came from long balls that had the defending duo of Veniamin Shumeiko and Ravanan in splits helping Dudu find the net on each and every occasion, while the final goal was from a sublime Ansumana Kromah assist.
The former Bagan player added one more assist to his name when Gabriel Fernandes scored from a stunner, just two minutes after coming on.
In between Dudu’s third and firuth Chennai had pulled one back through Mashoor Thangalakath, who burst in on the right to rifle a Joachim cross into the net.
Brief scores – East Bengal 7 ( Amnah 20′, Ravanan 23′ (OG), Dudu (32′, 49′, 61′), Fernandes 84′) beat Chennai City 1 ( Thangalakath 59′)