| Marcos Falopa |
Calcutta: East Bengal’s AFC Cup first-leg semi-final match against Kuwait SC was essentially a tale of two halves. While the first-half saw Marcos Falopa’s men down by three goals, they regrouped in the second to score two conceding just one.
The 4-2 scoreline went in favour of Kuwait SC, but two priceless away goals mean East Bengal have a bright chance to upset the defending champions if they manage a 2-0 or 3-1 victory in the return leg.
What affected the turnaround? For coach Falopa, it’s simple… He has a smart bunch of players.
“The good thing about my team is that the players understand my instructions… It makes my job a lot easier. I have got a smart bunch of players who can implement the plans. I have got unity in my squad and that is producing the results,” Falopa told The Telegraph from Kuwait City.
“It was a very difficult match for us… Playing such an important game away from home and against a team who are technically far more superior than us is no easy job. Also, we were not in the best shape…
“The players have been under a hectic schedule and didn’t get proper recovery time. Then there was this drama about the visas of three of your players… So considering all these things, I’m happy with how my team performed. What stood out was their determination… Losing 2-4 is definitely better than losing 0-4,” Falopa added.
The East Bengal players, who had light workout at the gym, will return to base on Thursday evening. The workout may be light, but there’s no reason to think that after their creditable performance on Tuesday, they are taking things lightly.
On the contrary, some of the players kept themselves busy by watching the other semi-final, between Kuwait’s Al Qadsia and Jordan’s Al Faisaly, at the Peace & Friendship Stadium, in Kuwait City.
Falopa knows that having bagged two away goals, they are very close to a final berth. But he chooses to tread a cautious path.
“I wouldn’t deny that having two away goals gives us definite advantage… It will give us a big push. But I want to make it clear that to qualify for the final, we will have to fight… No way it is going to be easy just because it is our home match.
“They are a good team with some very good players… Their Tunisian striker, Issam Jemma, is a brilliant player… He played in the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations… That speaks about his class… Also Rogerio, the Brazilian… Together they are dangerous,” he said.
Falopa has already begun sketching plans for the home match.
“I spotted some weakness in Kuwait SC’s game when we had them under pressure in the second-half… I will keep those in mind while planning for the return leg.”
The Brazilian coach has urged the fans to charge-up the team and hopes to present a proud moment to the club and Indian football.
“It is going to be a tactical battle on October 22 (the return leg)… My players worked very hard to earn two away goals… Now we need the support of the fans. I’m sure we will be able to make it to final of the AFC Cup… That will be a proud moment for East Bengal, a proud moment for the country,” Falopa said.