| debjit: Back at helm
Imphal: Bengal will meet Assam Friday, confident of overcoming the Northeast challenge, in the opening match of the quarter-final stage of the LG Santosh Trophy at the Khuman Lampak sport complex.
Bengal topped the chart in cluster III of qualifiers with thumping 7-0 and 5-0 wins over Rajasthan and Jammu & Kashmir, respectively. Assam did not score as many goals but were impressive nonetheless in posting 3-0 victories over Andhra Pradesh and Bihar in cluster IV.
Despite all that Bengal, the 33-time champions, start clear favourites. “We are growing in confidence after every match and have done well in both outings. Although the quarter finals are different from the preliminary rounds, I am confident of winning,” assistant coach Sisir Ghosh told The Telegraph.
Debjit Ghosh, who skipped the second match to attend a meeting of the AIFF players’ status committee in New Delhi, returned to Imphal Wednesday and will lead the team again in it’s bid to seal a semi-final berth.
Striker Dipendu Biswas had led the team in the second match in absence of the defender. Dipendu, in fact, is one factor which makes Bengal the favourites as he has scored seven goals in two games. Manipur’s Bijen Singh heads the scorers’ tally along with the Bengal striker.
Rajat Ghosh Dastidar and Dulal Biswas, who missed the first two matches because of Mohun Bagan’s AFC Champions League away tie in Maldives, are expected to join the squad Friday. The duo, however, is unlikely to play against Assam. They will be available for Bengal’s next match — against holders Kerala Sunday.
Bengal will still be missing Tollygunge Agragami’s Asim Biswas and Rahim Nabi of Mohammedan Sporting as the two are away in Qatar, representing Indian in the Asian under-20 championship. Their chances of arriving even before the Kerala match are slim and the team management is already ruing their absence.
Talking about Bengal’s chances of making the semi-finals, a team official said: “We are confident of winning both games. We respect Assam and Kerala but will have to accept the challenge. We don’t have any other alternative. We are participating in the tournament to win the trophy. Our aim is to win.”
Sisir is confident of overcoming holders Kerala, despite the fact that Bengal had failed to make the semi-finals in the last edition of the meet in Mumbai. “We are confident of winning both games,” said Debjit. He added the players are satisfied with the ground at the main stadium of the Khuman Lampak complex and the weather was also fine.
Assam coach Ganesh Rai and manager Abdul Latif admitted it is going to be tough against Bengal. “But we will not surrender and make all efforts to win the match. We will not change our strategy. Our boys are a little tired because we played on Wednesday but we will fight,” said the coach.