With the win, the hosts ended their three-match winless streak ahead of the Kolkata Derby next weekend.
East Bengal ended their string of losses in the I-League on Saturday evening as they defeated Gokulam Kerala 3-1 at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. Goals from Jobby Justin, Brandon Vanlalremdika and Lalramchullova were enough to see the Red and Gold through, while Christian Sabah only managed to score a consolation goal for the Malabarians.
The game kicked-off in frantic fashion with the home side taking the lead in the fourth minute itself, thanks to a superb lay-off from Justin. They doubled the lead soon after, as Jobby got in behind the Kerala defence to slot the ball past goalkeeper Shibin Raj.
In the second half, Gokulam came back strongly and Sabah pulled one back for the away side. However, the home team pulled rank and Lalramchullova pocketed all three points when he smashed the ball into the Kerala goal in the 82nd minute.
Here are the talking points from the game:
5. Gokulam Kerala continue to flatter to deceive
Last season, Gokulam Kerala were one of the standout teams in the league, punching well above their weight consistently. However, they have flattered to deceive this campaign. On Saturday, they started the game sluggishly, despite knowing that East Bengal had been looking shaky and low on confidence of late and they could kill another giant at the Yubabharati Krirangan.
It was only after coach Bino George gave them a pep talk at half-time that they finally emerged from their shells, but by that time it was too little too late.
4. East Bengal have defensive issues to sort out
Despite having excellent individual players in their backline, East Bengal have been suffering defensive frailties throughout the season and this game exposed them once again. Borja Gomez and Salam Ranjan were repeatedly caught unaware by smart runs from Sabah and Arjun Jayaraj, especially in the second half.
Goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar did not help his cause either, as he constantly misjudged his clearances and miscommunicated with the defenders several times. The goal conceded by the home side was the result of a miscommunication as well, when Sabah made the run behind Gomez, with Dagar not telling the defender that he would come out to grab the chipped ball. With the Kolkata Derby coming up next week, Alejandro Menendez has his work cut out for him, if he is to ensure that his side does not keep leaking goals like these.
3. East Bengal need a technically adept playmaker in their ranks
Having released Syrian midfielder Mahmoud Al Amnah from their squad, the Red and Gold are in desperate need of a playmaker in their ranks. New arrival Jaime Colado might be able to fill the big boots vacated by Al Amnah, but he did not feature against Gokulam as his work permit has not been cleared yet.
The Spaniard is most likely to feature in the Derby next weekend, but as of now, he is an unknown product. Kassim Aidara looked good in patches, especially with his no-nonsense tackling, but his profile does not include a lot of creativity and the Kolkata side need it desperately if they are to get back in the title race this season.
2. Brandon Vanlalremdika impressed once again
At 24 years of age, Brandon Vanlalremdika already has an I-League title to his name from his Aizawl days and looks like the real deal now. He is pacy, has brilliant technique, loves to cut in from the left wing and scored a fantastic goal. If East Bengal do go all the way this season, Brandon will have a major part to play in their campaign.
1. Jobby Justin might be in line for India call-up in recent future
With four goals in six appearances this I-League season, Jobby Justin is one of the hottest commodities in the Indian football circuit right now. Justin demonstrated his qualities once again, leading almost every East Bengal attack and scoring one goal and setting up another against Gokulam.
He has exceptional pace and skill which makes him a handful for any defence. With Enrique Esqueda picking up a knock, Jobby may have to lead the line for the Red and Gold against Mohun Bagan next weekend and the Derby could not have come at a better time for him. If he continues playing in this vein of form, there is a good chance that he could make the cut for the Indian team in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.