Sueoko's winner powers East Bengal

Sueoko's winner powers East Bengal

 A late second-half strike by substitute Ryuji Sueoka piloted East Bengal to a 1-0 victory over Indonesia’s Semen Padang in an AFC Cup quarterfinal game here on Tuesday.

The two sides clash on Indonesian soil Sept 24 for the second leg, with the winners of the double bill heading to the semifinal. East Bengal need a draw in the return leg to become only the second Indian club to reach the semifinals of the tournament. Goa’s Dempo FC made the semis in 2008.

The game at the Salt Lake Stadium saw East Bengal holding off repeated assaults from the visitors till the 70th minute, when the 5’ 7’’ Japanese broke the deadlock with a deft placement from the edge of the box. The attacking midfielder had taken the field only about 15 minutes earlier replacing Reisangmi Vashum.

However, the script could have been so different only five minutes earlier. Pedang’s Liberian forward Edward Wilson Junior -- a constant irritant for the local defenders -- unleashed a power-packed shot that crashed into the post, much to the relief of the around 40,000 East Bengal supporters.

The hosts began well, but seemed less cohesive as the first half progressed. The Indonesians gradually seized the initiative and began dominating, as the pace of the game slowed down.

East Bengal custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was repeatedly tested, but he rose to the occasion, pulling off some fine saves.

At the other end, East Bengal -- despite under pressure for the bulk of the game -- missed three easy chances.

Midway into the opening session, Vashum muffed up a sitter.