East Bengal begin I-League campaign with 3-1 win over Sporting

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Fatorda (Goa), Jan 10 (IANS) Nigerian striker Ranti Martins scored twice to guide East Bengal to a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over Sporting Clube de Goa in their I-League opening game here on Sunday.

Sporting were the better side in the opening stages of the match and duly took lead in the 29th minute through Nigerian goal scorer Odafa Okolie. They lead 1-0 at halftime.

But the Kolkata giants overturned the tide in the second half scoring thrice in an inspired display to claim the three points. Martins (67, 81) and Bikash Jairu (78th) scored for the away side at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

Sporting got the first opportunity in the 28th minute when Odafa gave the ball to Syrian Mahmoud Al Amna on to his right. However, the Syrian hurriedly shoot wide with East Bengal goalkeeper T.P. Rehenesh charging in.

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They went ahead a minute later, Odafa got past defenders Bello Rasaq and India international Arnab Mondal and placed the ball into the net with a diagonal low shot.

East Bengal created a couple of chances but never quite threatened.

Odafa almost gave the hosts a two-goal cushion but his weak header was off target. Sporting went into the break preserving their lead.

East Bengal poured forward after the breather looking for the equaliser. But they were mindful of the threat of Odafa who danced past three defenders and entering the box but shoot wide on 55 minutes.

East Bengal coach Biswajit Bhattacharya made a double substitution in the 63rd to add more firepower in their offensive play, bringing in midfielder Mohammed Rafique for Shylo Malswamtulunga and striker C.S. Sabeeth for Harmanjot Singh Khabra.

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They didn’t have to wait long after those substitutions as Martins headed home a swerving Do Dong Hyun cross in the 67th.

The leveller swung the momentum towards East Bengal as they had two good opportunities to score but Sabeeth and Dong Hyun couldn’t convert the chances they got.

At the other end, Odafa remained the danger man as he spilled away from his marker to unleash a right-footed grounder that Rehenesh stopped with his leg.

East Bengal took a giant stride towards winning in the 78th when Martins picked a forward-moving Jairu in space on the left side of the box with a perfectly weighted pass. Jairu slammed the ball in with a strong left footer.

Martins then sealed the outcome of the match with a neat finish as he beat defender Joseph Clemente with a neat touch placed the ball past an onrushing goalkeeper Arindam Bhattarcharya.

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Martins was later named the Man of the Match for his impressive display.

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