Salgaocar took a giant step towards clinching their maiden I-League football title as they came from behind to beat East Bengal 3-2 at the Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on Thursday.
Veteran Yusif Yakubu struck the winning goal with just four minutes left for the final whistle that left the Goan outfit at the top of the table with 53 points from 25 matches and also opened up a six points difference with East Bengal.
The Kolkata team had to blame themselves for the loss as they conceded the lead not once, but twice. Australian Tolgay Ozbey (10th) and Baljit Sahni (16th) gave East Bengal a 2-0 lead, and they enjoyed a 2-1 lead till the 78th minute.
Rino Anto struck the first goal for Salgaocar in the 33rd minute and Cajetan Fernandes made it 2-1 in the 79th minute before Yakubu settled the issue in the 84th.
East Bengal were the dominant side and rattled the rival defence with their quick passing and earned a penalty in the 10th minute and Tolgay Ozbey, who was fouled, converted to give East Bengal the lead. Six minutes later, Sahni, a former JCT striker, doubled the lead.
The two goal cushion was then squandered as Salgaocar pulled one back in the 33rd minute through Anto. Gilbert Oliveira from the left took a throw-in and gave the ball to Anto who floated the ball towards the goal even as East Bengal keeper Jayanta Paul misjudged the flight of the ball as the ball curled and dipped in to find the far corner of the net to the disbelief of the East Bengal team.
The second half saw Salgaocar playing as a different side as coach Karim Bencherifa introduced fresh pair of legs and brought in Francis Fernandes and Govin Singh in place of Anthony Barbosa and Jaspal Parmar.
The Goan outfit kept on attacking the rival goal with short passes and pushed the rival defense on their back foot and restored parity in the 79th minute.
Salgaocar kept on pressing in search of the winning goal and scored it in the 84th minute when Yakubu headed in a low cross from the left by Anto to the dismay of East Bengal.
For Salgaocar, a win in their last league match against JCT will give them their maiden I-League title.