East Bengal clear another hurdle

East Bengal moved four points shy of leaders Bengaluru FC with a game in hand, after a 3-1 victory over Pune FC in their I-League fixture at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Saturday.

Lalrindika Ralte produced a spectacular double (43rd, 70th) after Edeh Chidi gave an 18th minute lead to be the architects in their side’s win, while Pune FC had briefly reduced the margin through Mirjan Pavlovic (58th).

Unbeaten in their last eight matches, East Bengal’s third win on the trot for the first time since November 2012 has added spark to their title chase as they now travel to Churchill Brothers and Pune FC in two away matches before concluding their campaign in Kolkata against United SC.

Chidi latched on to an easy ball after Pune FC defender Srikanth Ramu failed to intercept to strike home before Ralte doubled the lead just before the break.

Pune FC coach Mike Snoei responded, introducing Mirjan Pavlovic in place of Nicolau Borges and the Croat recruit found the net from an acute angle to raise visions of a comeback.

But Ralte sealed the issue with a powerful strike before Pune FC could pose further threat to hand East Bengal a hat-trick of wins for the first time this season. For Pune FC, the misery prolonged as they have earned just one point from four games to slip to sixth place with 31 points.

Bengaluru Football Club, the debutants, still lead the table while Salgaocar Sports Club are in second place with 37 points. BFC have 41 points with two games to play.

East Bengal, like Salgaocar, are also on 37 points, with three games to play.

Salgaocar are placed second thanks to their better head to head record.

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