The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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EB out to settle scores with Salgaocar

Calcutta, Nov. 29: It’s payback time for East Bengal.

Subhas Bhowmick’s men have not one but two scores to settle when they clash with Salgaocar in a Round I match of the National Football League (NFL) at Margao’s Nehru Stadium on Sunday. This very year, the Goan champions had bruised East Bengal’s ego with a 2-0 win in the final round of the NFL when the Calcutta giants had already been assured of the crown.

More recently, Salgaocar beat East Bengal to the Durand Cup after a penalty shootout at the Ambedkar Stadium. Bhowmick couldn’t take that defeat as he felt some strange refereeing decisions had denied his team the Cup.

The East Bengal coach is not one to openly talk about ‘mission revenge.’ But neither is he one to take three straight defeats against one particular team lying down. He would surely have weighed his cards and plotted the downfall of the Goan heavyweights in their own den.

Douglas da Silva wasn’t a 100 per cent certainty to start Sunday’s game when the team left Calcutta. But it has been learnt that the Brazilian is fit enough to battle against Salgaocar.

That should be great news for Bhowmick. Not only because Douglas is a tower of strength in midfield, more importantly, his energetic presence seems to rub off on his teammates. The focus will also be on Bhaichung Bhutia who hasn’t been in the best of form of late. He missed a couple of sitters as well as the spot-kick in the Durand Cup final tie-breaker, but the dynamite from Sikkim can turn fortunes swiftly.

It’s good that East Bengal are at full strength, and for a team being touted as favourites, they need to put their best foot forward against a team which has a proven midfield. Tomba Singh, Climax Lawrence, Dharamjit Singh and Jatin Bisht can be a handful for any defence, and then there is Bello Rasaq to chip in with some clever feeds.

The other obstacle East Bengal will have to surmount is Rajat Ghosh Dastidar. The Mohun Bagan-reject had an excellent game in the Durand Cup final and coach Savio Madeira will be hoping his custodian continues in the same vein.

Dempo bank on Seah

Meanwhile, Dempo will look to Liberian striker Sunday Seah for goals as they open their NFL campaign with a tough away match against Durand Cup champions Mahindra United on Sunday.

A keen tussle is on the cards at the Cooperage and Mahindra will be cautious against their rivals’ forward line consisting of Seah, R.C. Prakash and Raju Singh.

On the other hand, Mahindra’s English coach David Booth should relish the challenge. He will also be confident given his team’s success in the Super Cup and Federation Cup.

Striker Felix Abogaye is Booth’s main weapon with another foreign recruit, Odartey Lawson, marshalling the defence. He can also count on the talent of S. Venkatesh. Added to this, the coach has more talent in midfield in Jules Alberto and Khalid Jameel.

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