| East Bengal’s Uga Okpara in an aerial tussle with Semen Padang’s Edward Wilson, in Padang, on Tuesday. Picture courtesy: WSG |
Calcutta: Trevor James Morgan had got East Bengal off to a fine start. Now, Marcos Falopa is trying his best to ensure the start doesn’t go to waste.
The Brazilian has been successful in his attempt so far as it’s under his coaching that East Bengal have made it to the AFC Cup semi-final, being the only Indian club to reach this far unbeaten.
Falopa is very much aware that the job only gets tougher from here on. But for the moment, he is a proud manů A man proud of his wards’ efforts.
“It’s been a terrific moment for us. The guys have done an excellent job as a unit. I’m proud of their work.
“It’s never easy to launch a comeback when you are trailing, especially in an away encounter. The path was always going to be difficult. Yet, these guys managed to overcome the odds.
“The points and the victory are not just for East Bengal club, but for the nation,” Falopa told The Telegraph, hours after his team held Semen Padang to a 1-1 draw in Tuesday’s return-leg quarter final tie, at the Haji Agus Salim Stadium, in Padang.
East Bengal’s mental strength, which was evident during crucial stages of Tuesday’s match, can certainly go on to be their trump card in the semi-final, the coach emphasised.
“We lost (Ryuji) Sueoka towards the end of the first session. And prior to that, we conceded due to the mistake of our goalkeeper.
“But the guys never got bogged down under pressure... Rather, they took the pressure in their stride and just slugged it out, which reflected their mental strength.
“The result is there for everyone to see,” the 64-year-old explained.
He also lauded the performance of Baljit Singh Sahni, whose measured cross from the right flank enabled James Moga to equalise and get East Bengal through to the last-four stage.
“Baljit came in at a time when we were a goal down and not having it easy at all. He provided the much-needed thrust that was missing from our attack.”
East Bengal are likely to face a strong opposition in Kuwait SC in the semi-final. Falopa, though, doesn’t want to delve much into the tie, nor the opponents.
“We don’t have much idea about them (Kuwait SC). But it’s a bit too early to think about that game now. We’ll definitely start our preparations at the right time,” he remarked.
Captain Mehtab Hussain, however, is of the opinion that celebrations can wait for a while as East Bengal face a very big test ahead.
“Celebrations can wait because we still have matches to play. We know we’ll be up against a very strong team in the semi-final.
“So, our priorities are clear. Now that we have come this far, we want to go further. We just cannot afford to look back at this stage.
“Each of the players have done a fantastic job and they are determined to carry on the good work,” a happy captain remarked.