East Bengal kept themselves and newcomers Neroca FC in the title hunt by snatching a 1-0 victory over Minerva Punjab at their new home, the Tau Devi Lal Stadium in Chandigarh on Tuesday.
Cavin Lobo’s 60th-minute long-range strike was enough to give the Red and Golds the victory in a match which featured some contentious decisions by the officials, as has become the norm this season.
The home team, under Wangen Khogen Singh, made one change as Souvik Das came on in the place of Abhishek Ambekar. For East Bengal, Mahmoud-Amna, Yami Longvah and Arnab Mondal replaced Mehtab Singh, Jobby Justin and Ansumana Kromah as Khalid Jamil lined up in a familar 4-1-4-1 formation.
East Bengal started the stronger of the two teams but Minerva tried to score through Eric Dano whose shot from inside the box was collected cleanly by EB custodian Ubaid CK. Mahmoud Al-Amna fashioned a golden chance for the visitors as his ball down the right found Dudu, who crossed it in for Longvah.
Laldanmawia Ralte then tried his luck but his shot appeared to have touched Eric Dano’s hand but the referee refused to award the visitors a penalty.
Al-Amna’s backheel then set up Lobo, who took a powerful right-footed shot from 25 yards out. Rakshit Dagar could do nothing about the strike, which bulged the net. The Minerva keeper was then replaced by Kiran Kumar Limbu.
Chencho Gyeltshen and William Opoku then had chances to score but couldn’t bring their team level as East Bengal goalie Ubaid had a good game between the sticks. Minerva now have 29 points from 14 games, while East Bengal have 26, having played the same number of games. Neroca are second with 28, but have played a game more than East Bengal and Minerva.