ONGC rode on Yusa Katsumi’s late winner to pull off their second major upset of the season as they beat heavyweights East Bengal by a solitary goal in the 15th round of the I-League encounter at the Ambedkar Stadium.
Earlier in the season, ONGC had beaten Dempo 3-0.
ONGC have now moved up one place to the seventh position with 16 points from 14 matches. East Bengal stay third with 27 points from 14 outings.
Katsumi, who was by far the best player on the pitch, broke free in a scintillating solo effort to cut past Arnab Mondal of East Bengal to unleash a powerful right-footer past a diving Abhijit Mondal.
The fleet-footed Japanese playmaker’s spadework was the highlight of an otherwise below par football match where both the teams spurned chances.
As expected, East Bengal were on the offensive from the word go. The runners-up of last season knit together a series of attacks forcing the hosts to sit back and defend. But the red and gold brigade paid for their strikers’ profligacy in front of goal. While Chidi Edeh was off colour, it looked like Robin Singh forgot to wear his scoring boots.
Apart from Katsumi’s brilliance, the hosts’ rearguard needs to be credited for guarding their fort. The back four — Robin Gurung, Hassan Adiola, skipper Sandeep Sanga and Sachin Gawas completely bottled up the likes of Chidi and Penn Orji for long spells. Goalkeeper Rehenesh T P was at it too — saving a Lalrindika Ralte shot from close range expertly in the 12th minute.
Nonetheless the Kolkata giants will be ruing the fact that they missed so many chances. If Chidi’s poor first touch killed Mehtab Hossain’s inch-perfect pass in the 53rd minute, Robin Singh should have headed home at least on three occasions. The tall striker was also caught in the offside trap quite often.
Even changing the formation from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 by replacing Manandeep Singh with right-back Saumik Dey could not fetch East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan and his side the elusive.