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East Bengal look good vs Vasco
- Federation Cup l Ground realities cloud championship as red-gold brigade prepares for quarters tie

Calcutta: The ground realities at the Salt Lake Stadium have taken precedence over the quality of soccer at the Tata Federation Cup thus far. It continues to be the focal point on the eve of East Bengal’s quarter final against Vasco Monday.

Subhas Bhowmick threatened to pull his team out of the tournament if things did not improve after the clean sweep of HAL while Bhaichung Bhutia did not take the field in protest Friday.

The ASEAN champions’ outburst did not fall in deaf ears as the IFA and the AIFF got into the act almost immediately. “I had tried to make a point and am satisfied that the concerned authorities have taken note of it,” Bhowmick said Sunday.

The uncertainty regarding the staging of the match has more or less evaporated, though, the East Bengal coach did say that he will appeal if another downpour leads to further deterioration of the turf.

“Two days of rest and the turf has shown signs of improvement. Moreover, there has been a concerted efforts on the part of the organisers to put things in order. The club also played its part and the involvement has been exemplary. The indifferent attitude towards the conditions has changed and that’s good for the game.

“This afternoon during my visit to the stadium I found the government representatives working round the clock to clear the slush. The AIFF president (Priya Ranjan Das Munshi) and the secretary (Alberto Colaco) have rushed in from Delhi and Goa. It means my protest has been accepted. We can’t go against nature but the effort has been praiseworthy,” Bhowmick remarked.

Though Bhowmick had rested six of his men who won the final in Jakarta — Bhaichung Bhutia, Mike Okoro, Suley Musah, Sasthi Duley, Dipak Mondal and Sur Kumar Singh — in the opener, it is likely that a few of them will be fielded on Monday. Chances of Bhaichung being tried out is “less”, conceded the coach.

This East Bengal team is hardly dependant on individuals and the ability of the lesser-knowns to deliver at every opportunity has helped them stand out. Dipankar Roy, who failed to earn a berth in the ASEAN squad, proved his abilities with a terrific comeback in the tie against HAL.

The midfield though will depend on the hardworking Alvito D’Cunha and Douglas da Silva. Alvito has been the livewire in attacks and his presence is sure to serve as a big boost.

The last time these two sides met was in the National League here, the Calcutta giants having it easy 4-0. While for East Bengal it has been an ascendancy since, Vasco’s graph has nosedived. The exit of Marcos Pareira and Abhay Kumar seem to have cost them dear.

“It’s a young side. Almost 80 per cent of the players are new. It will take some time for the boys to settle down,” said Vasco coach Derek Pareira.

Aware of East Bengal’s formidable reputation, Vasco are not hoping for an upset. “East Bengal are the best professional side in the country. There is no point putting our players under pressure against them. They should simply give their best and enjoy themselves on the field,” Pareira added.

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