Super-sub Ishan Pandita was on target again as Jamshedpur FC edged past SC East Bengal 1-0 at the Athletic stadium in Bambolim, Goa to go top of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) on Tuesday.
SC East Bengal who became the first-ever team to field an all-Indian starting XI in the history of the Hero ISL defended astutely for most parts of the match but succumbed to a Pandita strike (88’) to fall to their fifth defeat this season.
The Men of Steel went top of Hero ISL in the second half of the season for the first time in their history with the victory.
The tone was set early in the contest as Jamshedpur FC dominated proceedings from the outset as SC East Bengal were happy to deny them space and then try and hit them on the counter-attack.
The ploy worked well for Renedy Singh’s men in the first half as they resisted the Jamshepdur FC pressure with relative ease. There were a few half chances for Owen Coyle’s side but the two sides went into the break goalless and without a shot on target.
Jordan Murray was unlucky not to open the scoring in the 52nd minute when his powerful header some distance from the goal struck against the crossbar before going out.
SC East Bengal were then forced into a change as Adil Khan got injured and was replaced by Darren Sidoel who became the first foreign player to take part for the Red and Gold brigade on the night.
Coyle threw on Pandita just before the hour mark as Jamshedpur FC chased the victory. Murray then came close again in the 74th minute when his shot from the edge of the box went just wide.
The Australian again got a chance in the 85th minute when Greg Stewart found him in space inside the box but his shot on the turn was weak as Arindam Bhattacharja gobbled it.
However, it was Pandita who broke the deadlock three minutes later when he scored from a textbook header at the near post from a corner.
The goal broke SC East Bengal hearts but sent Jamshedpur FC into celebration as they went two points clear at the top of the table. The Red and Gold brigade remained bottom.
Coyle’s side are back in action on Monday as they take on fellow semi-final contenders Hyderabad FC. SC East Bengal will face FC Goa on January 19 which will see head coach Marco Rivera take charge of the team for the first time.
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