East Bengal's AFC Cup challenge back on rails

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Kolkata, Mar 18 (UNI) Playing under a blazing sun East Bengal put their AFC Cup campaign back on track with a dazzling1-0 win against Yemeni side Ahli Sana in their Group-B second round tie here today.

With this win, East Bengal now have three points from two outings, after being defeated by Lebanon's Safa FC 0-1 in their away game.

Sana who came with a 1-1 draw at home against Al Wihdat of Jordon, remained on one point.

East Bengal opened the scoring in the 34th minute capping a pressure period of 10 minutes during which they had Ahli Sana down on the mat.

Ibe Ikechukwu Gift's volley was deflected by Ahmed Khalil to Edmilson Marquis who was unmarked on the left. The Brazilian's blockbuster bulged the back of the net and the striker broke into a jig (1-0).

East Bengal's first move came in the 12th minute when Edmilson Marquis moved up the right flank and sent a low cross that Rahim Nabi nearly redirected to the far corner with a fine header.

The Fed Cup Champions showed their mettle having the Sana club pushed to the brink in between 25th and 35th minute when they forced three consecutive corners and then the goal.

While the first one saw goalkeeper Muaad Abdulkhaik fisting the ball to the back of the head of a defender to see the ball drop tantalizingly on the goal line before going out. From the second corner Rahim Nabi's looping header was barely kept out by Assad Alquamasi.

The third corner followed. Two minutes later the home team opened their tally.

East Bengal pried open the defence repeatedly, but lack of numerical superiority in the rival territory was their bane. The 'red golds' dominated the proceedings for the major part of the first 45 minutes.

The Yemen side never looked technically or tactically superior than the home team.

Yemen's hills enjoy a temperature of around 17 degree Celcius now and Sana which is based at Yemen's capital on the hills. A burning sun at 40 degree Celcius killed off their stamina and though in the second half they tried to show some urgency in their attack, the pace was definitely lacking.

This side boasts of at least seven of the 11 players from the national side that defeated India 3-0 in Goa Sana's first chance on target was as late as the 70th minute when Ala al Sassi's flat volley from the top of the box was tipped over by Subrata Pal.

They again came close to scoring in the 82nd minute when Alsalemi's effort on the run skimmed over the crossbar.

East Bengal continued to torment the opposition till the very end with Rahim Nabi's probing runs down the left flank and Mahrajuddin wadoo and Mehtab Hossain combing well in the midfield. Return of a fit M.Suresh lend the much needed sanity to the East Bengal defence also.

Teams: East Bengal: Subrata Paul(gk), M Suresh, M Bolaji, Debabrata Roy, Alvito D'Cunha (Snehashis Chakroborty 63), Ibe Ikechukuwa (Hardeep Singh 93) Gift, Syed Rahim Nabi, Mehtab Hossain, Mehrajuddin Wadoo,Sur Kr Singh, Edmilson Marquis, Snehashis Chakroborty Ahli Sana: Manaud Abdul Khaleej (gk), Assad Alquamasi, Hamada Alhadashi, Ahmed Khalili, Ala Al Sassi, Sami Ahemi, Zaid Alnajir (Ebrahim Hassan 62), Essam Aldhubani, Fuad Almari, Jamal Alquademi, Adel Alsalemi (Widhat Alkyat 83, yellow).

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