Kalyani (West Bengal): Goan club Salgaocar consolidated their lead in the standings with a thrilling 3-2 away win over East Bengal in a round eight I-League fixture at the Kalyani Stadium on Friday.
Karma Tsewang (eighth), Francis Fernandes (10th) and Clifton Dias (60th) gave Salgaocar a commanding 3-0 lead before East Bengal recovered some of the lost ground.
Egged on by the local crowd, East Bengal had a late surge with two goals from James Moga (64th) and substitute Semilen Doungel (77th) but it was not enough as the Goans emerged winner in the five-goal thriller.
The win was more important for Salgaocar as it was their first ever away win over East Bengal in the I-League.
With their sixth win from eight matches in the season, Salgaocar (19 points) went six points clear of Pune FC, while East Bengal (6) remained at the 10th place after five outings.
Having beaten United SC 2-0 here in round seven, Salgaocar were confident of another positive away result as Karma scored past East Bengal custodian Abhijit Mondal after Naoba Singh had cleared Darryl Duffy`s initial effort.
Even before East Bengal could recover from the jolt, India international Francis made it 2-0 just two minutes later. The wide midfielder chipped the ball over an onrushing Abhijit after a brilliant solo run as the visitors doubled their advantage.
East Bengal desperately needed a goal to come back into the contest and they did create some openings but Salgaocar custodian Karanjit Singh was in fine form. The India international made a brilliant double save to deny Edeh Chidi and Lalrindika Ralte in quick succession.
Despite having a two-goal cushion, Salgaocar kept looking for the third as they tried to counterattack at every opportunity with East Bengal defenders often having to come up with last-ditch challenges and interceptions to stop the Goan club from scoring again.
East Bengal dominated possession at the start of the second half but were wasteful with their final ball while Salgaocar also defended solidly.
Salgaocar went three up at the hour mark when youngster Dias volleyed home Francis` cross past Abhijit.
At that point it looked the game was over but just four minutes later Moga pulled one back for East Bengal as his header gave Karanjit no chance.
The goal from Moga gave East Bengal some hope and Falopa tried to increase the tempo by making a few substitutions.
On the other hand, Salgaocar coach Derrick Pereira understandably made some defensive changes.
One of Falopa`s substitutes, Doungel, scored East Bengal`s second in the 77th minute with a brilliant long range effort.
The youngster showed great technique to score with that strike and it ensured a nervy last few minutes for Salgaocar.
East Bengal though failed to seriously test Karanjit in the final stages while Salgaocar substitute Claude Gnakpa was denied a fourth by Abhijit.
In the end, East Bengal couldn`t complete the comeback as Salgaocar recorded their first-ever away win over the Kolkata club in the I-League.