| East Bengalís S. Venkatesh (left) and Sashthi Duley congratulate Mike Okoro after he scored the winner versus JCT at the Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday even as a dejected Jagjit Randhawa looks on. Picture by Santosh Ghosh.
EAST BENGAL 1 JCT 0
Calcutta: That class never withers with age was on display at the Salt Lake Stadium Wednesday when East Bengal edged out JCT by a solitary goal in the National Football League match.
Tushar Rakshit, the veteran medio, coming in as a second half substitute, showed his class to ensure three points for East Bengal just when it looked that they are poised to drop their first points of the league.
He held the ball, set up moves and fell back in defence to lend the red-and-gold brigade its due lustre. Itís from one such move initiated by Tushar in the 58th minute that the ball reached Mike Okoro via Alvito DíCunha and the Nigerian lobbed it over the head of an onrushing JCT íkeeper Arvind Kumar.
East Bengal are now on nine points from three games while JCT havenít opener their account.
Otherwise, it was a less than mediocre display by the city team. The much-talked about midfield of East Bengal failed to deliver once again and most of the moves died off in front of the penetrative zone. The two biggest disappointments of the day were S. Venkatesh and Anit Ghosh. And itís quite obvious that the midfield will not work when the main attacking and defensive midfielders fail to deliver.
Anit, the captain of the team, has been having a horrible season and it defies logic why he was persisted with so long. And itís no coincidence that East Bengal got their goal within four minutes of he being replaced by Tushar.
With such a talented reserve bench at his disposal and Subhas Bhowmick, known to be a thinking coach, itís a mystery why he is carrying on with Anit.
Two other players who are really hurting East Bengalís cause are Mike Okoro (despite his scoring) and Suley Musah.
While Okoro is holding the ball too long and slowing up the pace of the game, Musah looks terribly slow. He is unable to fall back in defence once he goes up and those areas can easily be exploited by the likes of Bhaichung Bhutia and Jose Ramirez Barreto.
In fact, Subhas Chakraborty who was playing as a left half, had to switch ends midway in the first half to act as a cover to Musah.
Subhas, himself, had a good match. He took a lot of workload and was immaculate in his passing. But East Bengalís inability to increase men in attack and stretch the game to the wings were detrimental to their hopes of a bigger scoreline.
On the other hand, JCT, playing a 4-4-2 formation, adopted the wait-and-watch policy and tried to catch their illustrious opponents on the counter.
They were almost successful on a couple of occasions. Once a Harvinder Singh left-footer from more than 20 yards away struck the cross-piece and came back into play.
They created another clear chance in the 49th minute when Hardeep Saini got the ball in the rival box off a counter-attack but his right-footed placing missed the target by an inch.
I.M. Vijayan, playing upfront did look fitter than what he was last season. Also, there were a couple of his trademark flashy touches, but he really didnít find a support player who could make use of that.
East Bengal: Sandip Nandy; Suley Musah, Arun Malhotra, Dipak Mondal; Douglas de Silva, Shasthi Duley, S. Venkatesh (Amjad Ansari, 78), Anit Ghosh (Tushar Rakshit, 53), Subhash Chakraborty (Malswamtluanga, 69); Alvito Dí Cunha, Mike Okoro
JCT: Arvind Kumar; J. Randhawa, Musah Aliu, Harpreet Singh, Daljit Singh; Jaswinder Singh (Kuldeep Singh, 55), Hardeep Saini (Jaspreet Singh, 82), Jo Paul Ancheri, Harvinder Singh; I.M. Vijayan, Hardeep Gill (Gyan Moyon, 67)
Referee: S. Ravishankar