Victorino Fernandes scored a hat-trick to guide Sporting Clube de Goa to a 4-3 win over East Bengal and keep their hopes alive for a place in the semifinals from Group A of the Hero Federation Cup, here on Tuesday.
Sporting, who came back strongly in the exciting second half, scored through Victorino Fernandes (1st, 56, 78th minutes) and Anthony Wolfe (44th) at the Nehru Stadium in Fatorda.
For East Bengal Ranty Martins (5th), Dudu Omagbemi (21st) and S Malsawmtulunga (78th) were the goal scorers.
Sporting, who finished their league engagements with six points from four matches, move to second place behind Dempo. East Bengal remained on four points from four matches and are out of the tournament.
The second semifinal spot will be known tomorrow as Royal Wahingdoh, who are on three points, need a win against Dempo with a 2-0 margin to qualify for the knock-out round.
Knowing that only a win would keep their chances alive, Sporting surprised East Bengal in the very first minute when Beevan D'Mello send a through pass to Victorino who raced into the box eluding a rival defender and after positioning himself send a curling shot that beat rival keeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury to his left to find the far post.
Unnerved by the early goal, East Bengal regrouped and made a counter move and equalised from a penalty in the fifth minute after Mohammed Rafi was brought down inside the box by rival defender Kofi Dankwae and referee Pratap Singh awarded the penalty spot which Ranty Martins converted perfectly.
The goal spurred East Bengal as they held the midfield superiority and made inroads mostly from the left. The Kolkata side took the lead in 29th minute when S Malsawmtulunga took a flag kick on the left and floated the ball into the box which deflected defender Kofi and came to Dudu Omagbemi who slammed it into the net.
The goal put Sporting defense in dissaray as they kept wide gap on the right and East Bengal punished them with a goal.
Seeing Dudu free on the left, Ranty Martins send a long ball for him and the former sprinted down before sending a measured goal mouth cross which S Malsawmtulunga tapped in.
But the home team did not lose hope as they slowly build moves and reduced the margin minute before the half time when Anthony Wolfe headed home a cross from the right by Rowllin Borges.
The second half was exciting as both the teams went on the attack with the ball moving to and fro and Sporting had couple of early chances to equalise but Subhasish Roy Chowdhury did well to collect Cajetan Fernandes and Victorino Fernandes shot.
At the other end, East Bengal came with counter moves and nearly scored but first Ranty Martins, who made a solo run on the left, saw his effort go wide off the target and latter Dudu shot wide.
The home team build moves and kept on the pressure midway in the second half and found the equaliser in 66th minute through Victorino.
East Bengal coach Armando Colaco was a visibly disappointed man and feels dejected after his team let him down after leading 3-1 at half time.
"This is the second time in my coaching carrier I have been let down after a winning position. The first time was when Dempo lost against Mahindra in the I-League encounter," he said.
"The team fought back after conceding early goal and then took 2 goals lead. But sudden loss of concentration on the part of the defenders in the later part of the second half saw the team conceding two quick goals and lose the match," Colaco said.
"I am in a loss of words and as coach of the team I accept the blame like the captain of the ship who is the last person to leave when the ship goes down. First I have to talk to the players and then to the management in length to sort out the problems," he stated.