Kolkata: Laldanmawia Ralte struck a hat-trick as a rampaging East Bengal toyed with Shillong Lajong FC for a 5-0 thrashing, their fourth consecutive win in the I-League, on Thursday.
Ralte struck in the 8th, 27th and 61st minutes while Jobby Justin (28th) and Enrique Esqueda (45th) scored one each in the first half, helping East Bengal cut the deficit to three points with leaders Chennai City FC with a match in hand.
Their fourth win on the trot took East Bengal past Churchill Brothers, who they play on Sunday, to the third place in the table, giving their maiden I-League title pursuit a huge boost in front of 25,000 fans.
Real Kashmir are second in the table with 32 points, having played 16 matches, compared to East Bengal's 15.
By denying Shillong Lajong a single goal, East Bengal's goal difference (14) also got a big fillip. Chennai City have a goal difference of 15.
Fresh from two wins in a row, bottom-placed Shillong Lajong FC came out with a lot of hopes, but the young outfit were simply outplayed and left demoralised by the home side.
Starting up front in place of Jaime Colado, Enrique Esqueda, along with Jobby, pressed hard from the beginning and the home side completely dominated the possession.
The opening goal came from a clinical Lalrindika Ralte that Laldanmawia headed into goal.
Two minutes later, Jobby almost doubled the lead from a Lalrindika freekick only to see his header go wide.
East Bengal maintained the majority of possession and the Shillong outfit did not get a single chance till Samuel Kynshi's 22nd-minute freekick sailed over the bar.
The red-and-gold brigade kept pressing hard and Laldanmawia capitalised on a long through ball by Borja Gomez to double the lead in the 27th minute.
Laldanmawia scored his second goal after getting on the end of a long ball chipping the ball over Shillong goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa.
Before the visitors could blink, East Bengal made it 3-0, this time Jobby scoring, heading home into an empty net from Esqueda's attempt at goal.
Lalrindika Ralte set up another goal for East Bengal and this time Esqueda found the name on the scoresheet to give them a 4-0 lead at half time.
Jaime who is recovering from a neck injury was brought at the hour mark and the Spaniard brilliantly dribbled past a Shillong defender before setting up Laldanmawia's third goal.
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Updated Date: Feb 14, 2019 20:59:20 IST