Kolkata: East Bengal rode on Orji Penn`s double to end their I-League first-leg campaign on a high with a 2-1 victory over Air India at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Monday.
In an attacking first-half, East Bengal struck the first blow in the 25th minute when Penn scored through a powerful right-footer that sailed over the goalkeeper`s head into the Air India net.
However, after the changeover in the 51st minute, Air India scored the equaliser through Henry Ezeh, who put the ball in an open net with hosts` defence nowhere to be seen.
But East Bengal woke up from the slumber with Penn scoring his second and decisive goal in the 73rd minute from a Sanju Pradhan cross from the left.
The win took East Bengal (26 points) past bitter foes Mohun Bagan (24) to third place in the standings.
Mohun Bagan will have to win in Pune in their last round fixture of the first-leg tomorrow to go past East Bengal.
This win would be a relief of sorts for the East Bengal camp, who had a nightmarish outing in Goa, having suffered a 0-4 humiliation against Salgaocar in a match that witnessed Mehtab Hussain being red-carded followed with midfielder`s spat with fellow teammate Tolgay Ozbey.
Without the inspirational playmaker, East Bengal did not look that convincing up front with Ozbey, Baljit Singh Sahni and Robin Singh showing lack of coordination. But the day belonged to Penn as the Nigerian stole the show with two beautiful strikes.
Having come here on a high after upsetting leaders Dempo, Air India capped two losses on the trot including one against Mohun Bagan in the previous match to be on 19 points.
First Published: Monday, January 02, 2012, 23:48