East Bengal steamroll Air India 6-1

Kolkata: Unstoppable East Bengal continued their dream run as they thrashed Air India 6-1 at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan here, to register their sixth win on the trot and consolidate their position at the top of the I-League standings.

Mercurial striker Tolgay Ozbay struck twice (42nd, 50th), while Saumik Dey (11th), Robin Singh (33rd), Mehtab Hussain (50th) and substitute Ravinder Singh (90+1st) scored a goal each to complete the rout.

However, the match also saw the red-and-gold brigade concede its first goal of the league, when Air India scored through Eric Boiwe in the 55th minute.

East Bengal, who have already won two titles in the Federation Cup and the Calcutta Football League this season, have 18 points from six matches, while the Mumbai outfit remained on three points after as many matches.

The title favourites, who led 3-0 at half time, began in a typical attacking fashion and that unsettled the Air India defence.

With the in-form striking duo of Ozbay and Robin looking to cash in on every opportunity, Air India`s defence found the going tough and never really looked in control of the proceedings.

Medfielder Hussain created the opening as Saumik nicely put the ball in from a Sanju Pradhan pass to help the hosts open their account.

Baffled by the early strike, Air India looked for covers while East Bengal continued to attack.

In the 13th minute, Air India custodian Arup Debanth almost conceded a goal, but recovered to gather the ball in the second attempt as a surging Robin failed to clear the ball from an Orji Penn centre.

East Bengal`s Sandip Nandy thwarted a nice curling freekick by Eric with a diving save in the 22nd minute.

Robin had a disappointing run in the 23rd minute as he failed to convert in an one-on-one tackle with the Air India goalkeeper, even as East Bengal looked marauding in every move.

But their second goal came soon with Robin making amends for his mistake 10 minutes later.

Capitalising on a Penn pass, Robin this time tackled the Air India defence nicely before converting from a diagonal left-footer.

Attacking down the flanks, the agile Ozbay looked impressive with his attacks and the Australian almost scored in the 37th minute before the Air India defence put it away in an unconvincing manner.

Ozbay opened his account in the 42nd minute when he fired in from a Naoba Singh pass to make it 3-0 at the break.

Looking unstoppable, Ozbay made it 4-0 five minutes after the changeover when he used a Sanju Pradhan through pass to finish it with ease.

East Bengal conceded their first goal of the I-League following a sloppy display by Sandip in the 55th minute.

Sanip advanced to get hold of an Uttamkumar Singh throw-in but could not hold on as Eric capitalised on the loose ball to reduce the margin.

Having conceded the goal, East Bengal received a flurry of yellow cards including two double bookings to Robin in the 82nd minute as the Delhi lad was sent off.

Reduced to 10 men with eight minutes to go, East Bengal however looked unruffled as they banged in another two with Air India at the receiving end.

Hussain made it 5-1 in the dying minutes after substitute Budhiram Tudu squandered an opportunity.

There was more agony in store for the helpless Air India custodian Debnath as substitue Ravinder sealed the final nail in the Mumbai outfit`s coffin in the first minute of the second-half injury time.

Brought in place of Penn in the 87th minute, Ravinder made his presence felt when he banged in from a Budhiram pass to complete the rout in front of a screaming home support.