| East Bengal’s Douglas da Silva, Mahesh Gawli and Alvito D’Cunha (left to right) at the East Bengal ground on Wednesday, the eve of their National League clash with Mohammedan Sporting. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Controlled aggression versus new-found inspiration. Injury-strung resources versus joy at receiving monetary dues after a long-drawn battle (with the officials).
But when it comes to a battle between the leaders (East Bengal) and relegation-strugglers (Mohammedan Sporting), any comment on any antithetical proposition between the two needs to be made keeping in mind their trail in the past and build-up to the present.
On Wednesday, East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick talked about “controlled aggression” as he presented the receding strength of his bench due to injury and suspension. His opposite number, Jamshed Nassiri, drew inspiration from the victory over Churchill Brothers in the last match.
Bhowmick urged his players to rise to the occasion against the odds. Nassiri impressed on his wards the importance of ensuring what happened in Margao on April 4 was not a flash in the pan.
Thursday’s battle line in the National Football League (NFL) is, thus, drawn in such a way where nobody looks a clear favourite — not heavyweights East Bengal (37 points), neither struggling Mohammedan Sporting (18 points).
Bhowmick said as much, refusing to take Mohammedan Sporting lightly. “I hate thinking we are the favourites. Don’t forget we had drawn with Indian Bank (whose relegation is confirmed). No way will we treat Mohammedan Sporting lightly. After all, they have a rich tradition and can be as dangerous as anybody,” observed the East Bengal coach.
A peek into his resources helps one understand his observation better.
Cristiano Junior is injured, so are Bhaichung Bhutia and Dipak Mondal. Bhutia (suffering from calf muscle injury), though, insisted he would play. Mike Okoro is indisposed while Surkumar Singh and Douglas da Silva are ruled out with double bookings. Bijen Singh has gone home after receiving news of his grandfather’s death.
“I don’t know who will be finally available but I have to get along despite such adversities,” Bhowmick said. “You see, the higher you go, the more slippery and troublesome you should expect the road to be. Whoever play tomorrow must understand the situation and excel, that’s it”, he added.
Mohammedan Sporting have a few problems as well, like the non-availability of Chidi Edeh (visa problems) and Syed Rahim Nabi (double booking). But the team got a much-needed boost when club officials handed over to the players part of their dues.
This is something Dipendu Biswas and Co. have been battling for quite some time and even skipped a few practice sessions to send a strong message to the officials. Nassiri didn’t comment on this issue, but an official remarked that this ‘action’ could transform Mohammedan Sporting into a strong unit at the Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday.
Nassiri’s strategy is simple. “Counter-attacks will be the key. One point is my objective, if I get more, it’ll be a bonus”, he said.
Salgaocar win 2-0
In Margao, Salgaocar carved out a 2-0 win over Haywards Sporting on Wednesday, reports PTI. Remus Gomes put Salgaocar ahead in the 52nd minute while Freddy Mascarenhas sealed the fate of the match 10 minutes from time.
By virtue of the win, Salgaocar jumped to seventh place after scoring their first win in the second leg, collecting 21 points from 18 matches while Sporting remained on fifth place with 26 points from as many outings.
Ever-Ready move up
Ever-Ready topped their group en route to the second phase of the National League qualifiers. According to information received here from Shillong, the city outfit beat Indian Oil 1-0 in their last match, for their third win in as many games. Ernest Jeremiah scored the winner in the 73rd minute.