Chencho Gyletshen scored his debut goal for NEROCA on Thursday evening. 

East Bengal took a huge leap forward in the I-League title race by coming back from behind to defeat NEROCA FC 2-1 at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on Thursday. After Chencho Gyeltshen’s debut goal gave the Orange Army an early lead, the Red and Gold Brigade rallied back through an inspired brace from substitute Enrique Esqueda. Here are our talking points for the game:

5. Are East Bengal’s set-piece problems a persistent issue?

The Red and Gold might’ve given a solid defensive performance in the Kolkata Derby, but were back with questionable set-piece defending against NEROCA. The third minute goal itself was due to their shambolic defensive work, as Rakshit Dagar completely botched his clearance, allowing Chencho to put the ball into an open net. Things didn’t really improve afterwards, when in the 22nd minute, another mistimed clearance from Lalramchullova almost allowed the Orange Brigade to score another.

Dagar looked shaky throughout and NEROCA’s physical players bullied him, creating big chances through set-pieces. While The Orange Army didn’t get many set-pieces in the second half, East Bengal looked nervous every time whilst defending them and need to work on improving in that department.

4. Did NEROCA’s clever pressing expose the hosts’ laziness?

NEROCA didn’t really let East Bengal gain control of the game and despite playing quite defensively, they created some glaring chances on the counter-attack. The Orange Brigade’s energetic midfielders worked hard to steal the ball off the opposition multiple times and despite not playing a high-pressing game, the players pressed just when it was needed.

Lalrindika Ralte’s laziness was often found out by the NEROCA players and this unpredictable pressing style troubled the Red and Gold Brigade throughout. The players won back possession in promising positions a few times in the second half.

3. Did Enrique Esqueda’s super-sub performance elevate East Bengal’s momentum?

East Bengal might’ve dominated proceedings, but were frustrated by some stubborn defending from NEROCA, who seemed to have worked out their attacking system. The Red and Gold couldn’t penetrate their defence properly, as both Varney Kallon and Eduardo Ferreira did well to keep them quiet. Sensing the need for a Plan B, Alejandro Menendez brought on Esqueda before the hour mark.

The Mexican seemed dangerous from the getgo and made his impact in the 66th minute, when he struck a powerful header to equalize proceedings. He had a positive influence behind Jobby Justin, dictating play and finding holes in NEROCA’s defence. The Mexican later scored another solid header, completing the comeback in style and giving East Bengal a big boost ahead of some decisive fixtures.


2. Were NEROCA too defensive for their own good?

NEROCA started the game in an electric manner, catching the hosts off guard and scoring in the third minute thanks to a pinch of luck. The showed enough urgency to get a few goals in the first third of the game, but curbed their forays after a point. Knowing how dangerous their attacking talent is, with the likes of Katsumi Yusa and Subash Singh, the Orange Army didn’t play to their strengths.

NEROCA became too cautious to go for the kill and were made to pay for their negative approach when East Bengal completed the comeback.

1. Did East Bengal display champions’ mentality in the second half?

East Bengal’s title ambitions were in danger of being dealt a huge blow when NEROCA scored early and kept them out for a long time. However, Esqueda and Co. displayed something special in the final 30 minutes.  Alejandro Menendez’s substitutions worked to perfection, as Esqueda scored two powerful headers to break NEROCA’s resolve and help the Red and Gold Brigade get another crucial win.

While there is still a long way to go, this inspired comeback gives a huge boost of confidence to the players, heading into the crucial match against Real Kashmir. East Bengal displayed heart which makes them worthy of winning their inaugural I-league title. While it remains to be seen whether they can go all the way, this exhilarating victory definitely gives them hope of finally doing so.