The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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EB ready for Thai test

Calcutta/Bangalore: The time of reckoning is here. East Bengal are on the last lap of Mission Jakarta and BEC Tero Sasana of Thailand stand between the India champions and glory.

Subhas Bhowmick’s team, having overcome two local teams in the previous rounds, face another tough task in Saturday’s ASEAN Club meet final. The job will be harder, but the coach is putting up a brave front.

“If our players play their hearts out, they can do wonders. Anything is possible,” said Bhowmick on Friday, adding that his wards are enjoying the challenge.

The coach, who set a precedent by getting the entire team to stay together at a five-star hotel and train for a month before leaving for Jakarta, said his players have performed creditably.

“Teams like Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand are ranked higher than India in Fifa rankings. So we have done well by coming this far. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

East Bengal had lost 0-1 to the same Thai team in their first match of the tournament on July 14. It was a close game which East Bengal didn’t deserve to lose. Bhaichung Bhutia, for one, is bracing for one more fight. Predicting another hard game, the star said: “We will make it as difficult as possible for them.”

“They are an allround team, but not unbeatable. We have to work hard. It will not be easy for anyone,” the prolific striker told The Telegraph over phone.

“There is unity among the players and it is showing on the field. Team spirit is fantastic and we are playing like a unit,” Bhutia said. About his own terrific run so far, Bhutia said: “Sometimes one gets four goals, sometime none at all. I am enjoying my game and getting goals. I will give my best.”

East Bengal are yet to decide whether to field Mike Okoro. The striker was taken off following a shoulder injury in Thursday’s semi-final against Petrokimia Putra. According to sources in the camp, a decision on the Nigerian will be taken on Saturday morning.

Tero Sasana will pose a stiff challenge for sure. They have pedigree — as is evident from their entry into the AFC Champions League final. The Thai champions have won all matches here and captain Terdsak Chaiman has been one of the best players of the meet. Striker Jathupong Thongsuk is also among the goals.

Double hattrick is on

Meanwhile, according to an East Bengal official late on Friday, the tournament committee confirmed that Bhutia had scored a double hattrick against Army SC on July 16. East Bengal had lodged an appeal, claiming the striker had scored all six, though the referee had awarded five. With this goal, Bhutia’s tally reaches eight.

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