|James Moga during a practice session at
the Salt Lake Stadium, on Sunday.
A Telegraph picture
Calcutta: Barely a few hours after landing in the city, Kuwait SC players got down to business at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday afternoon. It was apparent during their hour-long training that they were not going to be bogged down by the alien conditions.
The Kuwait team is aware of East Bengal’s strengths, but they seem to be more worried about the ground realities. The artificial turf at the stadium seems to be their biggest obstacle on way to the AFC Cup final.
Having lost the first leg semi-final at Kuwait City against Kuwait SC 2-4, East Bengal are also keen to put up a good show in the return leg at the Salt Lake Stadium on Tuesday. A 2-0 or 3-1 victory will see East Bengal through on the away goal rule.
“We are not used to playing on this sort of surface… We have to get used to the conditions,” said Kuwait SC media manager Tamer Abdel.
The Kuwait SC team has come here with 18 players, but will miss their key player Fahad Al Ansari, who is yet to recover from the injury that also kept him out of the first-leg clash. But they will pin their hopes on their Brazilian attacking midfielder Rogerio (No.10).
The visitors are, however, prepared for their biggest test — playing in front of an expected 50,000-plus turnout. They know the pressure will be huge.
“We enjoy the pressure bit… That’s good. It will bring the best out of the players,” said the media manager.
Kuwait SC, for the record, have the experience of playing in the city. They beat Mohun Bagan 1-0 in 2009 after having hammered them 6-0 at home.
“Both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are tough opponents… But on current form, East Bengal seem to be way ahead,” said Abdel. He, however, didn’t wish to be drawn into any controversy when asked if complacency had allowed them to let in two goals in the first-leg match after being 4-0 up. “You have to draw your own conclusions,” he quipped.
East Bengal, too, are not taking anything lightly just because it is their home match. They practised at the Salt Lake Stadium in the morning and seemed determined to shrug off their 1-3 loss to Dempo in the I-League a couple of days back.
“We were a bit tired… We have been travelling and playing continuously… It was just one bad day in office against Dempo… These things can happen,” said James Moga.
“But AFC Cup is going to be different… May be we needed this sort of a setback which will serve as a wake up call before the big clash,” Moga added.
“Kuwait SC are tactically and technically ahead… We have to play intelligently to counter their threat… Perhaps rely on counter attacks,” he remarked.
“We know we can’t let in any more goals… So we have to balance our style of play… I haven’t been playing at my best so far this season and have to make amends.”
Captain Mehtab Hussain also echoed similar sentiments. “We have to go all out… We can’t afford to let this golden chance go…”