| East Bengal’s (from left) Edeh Chidi, Uga Okpara and Penn Orji, during a practice session |
Calcutta: Kingfisher East Bengal will once again look to the quicksilver opportunism of Edeh Chidi in the Federation Cup as they prepare to take on the formidable Churchill Brothers in the semi-final at the Kanchanjungha Stadium, in Siliguri, on Thursday.
Chidi has been in good form for the red-and-gold brigade thus far in the ongoing season, especially in the Federation Cup. That East Bengal could qualify for the semi-finals despite their patchy show is because of Chidi’s ‘poaching ‘skills.
He scored two goals, including the winner, against Kalighat MS to help the side top Group C on their way to the last-four stage.
No doubt then Trevor James Morgan’s side will look to the striker to sizzle against Churchill. Talking from Siliguri, Ishfaq Ahmed, the team’s experienced winger, said: “We have a very balanced side… The strikers are in good form. Chidi has been in exceptional touch… We hope he continues his goal scoring form.”
East Bengal’s other strikers, Manandeep Singh and Baljit Sahni, have also complemented the Nigerian. While the last year’s runners-up will be relying on their strikers, Churchill will look to their foreign trio — midfielder Beto (Brazil), strikers Henry Autchouet (Gabon) and Akram Moghrabi (Lebanon) — to continue with their tremendous form.
Taking a look at the statistics will give you an idea about their form. They have scored nine goals and have conceded only one to top Group B.
But Churchill Brothers’ technical director Subhash Bhowmick doesn’t want to ponder over his team’s form, saying it will be a fresh challenge. “East Bengal are a strong side and we will need a disciplined performance to beat them… We must be careful,” Bhowmick said. “I hope my boys will face the challenge courageously,” he added.
East Bengal will have their task cut out against Churchill’s fluency. Morgan hoped his team will overcome the deficiencies and come out with a better showing on Thursday.
He referred his side an underdog when he was quizzed about his side’s chances against the Goan team. “Their players, especially Beto and Akram (Moghrabi), are in excellent form and we really have to find a way to restrict them,” Morgan said.
Speaking about their scrappy showing at the group league stage, Morgan said: “I’m happy with the way the boys came back to win against Kalighat… They showed character.”
East Bengal are likely to field Saumik Dey, Uga Okpara, Gurwinder Singh, Naoba Singh in the defence, while Harmanjyot Singh Khabra, Mehtab Hossain, Penn Orji and Ishfaq Ahmed will play in the midfield. Baljit and Chidi are likely to be the strikers.
Up againstthe guile of Beto, the East Bengal defenders will have to be alert to thwart those penetrating throughs. Similarly, Mehtab will have to take the leading role to ensure that the midfield battle is not lost to Beto. The Brazilian happens to be the pivot around whom most of Churchill’s action revolves. Negating him should be one of the main ploys of Morgan.
From the emotional front too East Bengal should be charged up since they are the only team from the city who are still in the fray for the prestigious title.
With Mohun Bagan falling face first and Prayag United not doing justice to their high-profile line-up, it depends on East Bengal to prove Calcutta’s superiority over Goa.
Mehtab Hossain said they are confident of winning the trophy. “We are carrying the hopes of the city… I admit that we have played scrappy football… But these are still early stages… We are still settling down… However, we will give our best. Hopefully, we will reach the finals,” Mehtab said.
One hopes that East Bengal’s best is better than Churchill.