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Time to finish it off, says Bhowmick

Calcutta: If the coach in Subhas Bhowmick has an ambition, he is tantalisingly close to achieving it. His East Bengal have played with enviable authority this season, and are just a point away from their second National Football League crown with two matches to play.

Bhowmick knows he can’t get any closer than this and is eager to go for the kill as early as possible with Friday’s penultimate match against Vasco at Salt Lake Stadium providing a great opportunity to emerge triumphant in front of the home crowd.

“Yes it has been a long wait,” Bhowmick said Thursday, referring to the long break after the 18th game in the 22-round marathon. “Such breaks can create problems, but now is the time to finish it off,” said the coach.

It is surely a title he had been waiting for as coach and his East Bengal fizzled out of contention with a slew of injuries at an early stage of the same competition in 1999-2000. But Bhowmick is underplaying the personal ambition bit.

“Personal goals don’t remain important when you become part and parcel of a team. A coach is as good as his team’s performance. Losing may not prove anything decisively, but nothing succeeds like success,” said the heavyweight of the Seventies and early Eighties.

His Vasco counterpart is spoiling for a fight. “A top three finish was what we were looking for at the start of the season. But now that we do have a chance to go all the way, we will go for it,” said coach Derek Perreira.

“The defeats East Bengal suffered have opened the door for us. They are one of the best teams, but it all comes down to who fare better on the match day. I believe my players have it in them to pull it off,” said the former international.

It will also be a battle of nerves and not many of the players are experienced in handling such pressure in a big match. The coaches, predictably, are trying to underplay that. “Our Brazilian trio can perform under pressure and there are the experienced ones like Jules Roberto and Franky Barreto. I don’t think my boys will face any problem in holding their nerves even if it’s an away match,” said Perreira.

Bhowmick said similar things. “We are not under pressure. The players are eager to win and prove they form the best team. They have been told to treat this as a knockout match,” said the East Bengal coach.

“If we can produce 50 or 60 per cent of what we have been doing in practice, the title will be ours. Vasco is not an extraordinary team, nor are they pushovers. We want to finish it off tomorrow, with a win,” said Bhowmick.

The mood in the East Bengal camp was best summed up by Douglas da Silva. “In every department — defence, midfield and attack — East Bengal are superior,” said the defensive midfielder, who can be dangerous in the attacking zone too.

“The last time we drew 1-1 with Vasco in Goa, it was they who held us. We didn’t hold them. I am under no pressure,” said the Brazilian.

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