Calcutta: It might appear, at first glance, that it would be difficult to ascertain the reasons for Kingfisher East Bengals 0-1 loss to Al-Orouba in the AFC Cup opener, on Tuesday.
Was it poor refereeing? Or was it the fact that the men in red and gold were wasteful in front of the goal? Or was it the fact that the city team missed three first team players? Or was it the searing afternoon heat at the Salt Lake Stadium? It was, in fact, the sum of all the above.
Fatai Alaos first-half penalty made the difference between the two sides. In the 45th minute, Abdellah Sharyan was let loose by a clearance from the Al-Orouba defence. Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu ventured out of the penalty box to clear the ball. His collision with Harmanjyot Singh Khabra sent the ball high into the air, and the defender attempted to head the ball clear from Sharyan. There was minimal contact between two as Khabra seemed to have cleared the ball cleanly.
The referee, Shamsuzzaman Hasan Tayeb, to the amazement of players from both teams and those watching, thought otherwise and gave the penalty. Gurpreet almost salvaged the situation, however, when he managed to get a hand to Alaos shot. It was not enough. The Yemeni club were up 1-0 much against the run of play.
There was confusion in the second half as well. In the 50th minute, Edmilson took a free-kick just outside the penalty box after Tolgay Ozebe was fouled. Veteran Yemen goalkeeper Mohad Abdul Khalaq got his hand in the way of Edmilsons blistering shot. The ball ricocheted onto the left post and appeared to be heading across the line before Khalaq grabbed on to the ball. While Morgans men thought they deserved a goal, the referee was unmoved.
In the 72nd minute, Tolgay was dropped by defender Al-Weshah inside the penalty box. The penalty was not given. Interestingly, the major talking points of the match overshadowed the fact that despite dominating possession, East Bengal failed to convert. Al-Oroubas standard of football was dismal. Barring the penalty conversion, there was hardly anything to write home about.
East Bengal, began well, with a positive 4-3-3 formation. Their passing was fluid and Penn Orji and Tolgay played some delightful one-twos.
But Morgans men ran out of ideas in front of the goal and that denied them to make a winning start.