| East Bengal players (from left) Alvito D’Cunha and Dipak Mondal with coach Subhas Bhowmick at the club ground Saturday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta, Dec. 14: East Bengal have made a fine start in the National Football League, winning four of the five matches and drawing one. But the League leaders think they will be facing their toughest test till date, against Salgaocar at Salt Lake Stadium Sunday.
“Salgaocar is a good team and we really have a job at hand,” East Bengal Subhas Bhowmick said Saturday. “Moreover, with this match, our spell of home matches comes to an end. We’ll be off to Goa for our first away match.”
The coach felt it’s imperative that they win this match and gain a psychological high before leaving town. “If we can win this match, the boys will definitely get the much-needed boost before the away games.”
East Bengal play Vasco Thursday in Margao and Indian Bank in Chennai next Sunday.
But on the eve of such of a crucial match, Bhowmick is worried. While Brazilian defender Douglas de Silva is out with two yellow cards, a knee injury has forced Anit Ghosh out of the game.
“Basically, we dropped four and not two points against Churchill Brothers. Losing two of our main players, Anit and Douglas, is nothing short of dropping two points,” the coach opined. It’s likely that M. Suresh will replace Douglas while Chandan Das will start in place of Anit.
Another worry for the East Bengal coach is the injury to Mike Okoro, their Nigerian striker. “I’m not sure whether he will be able to start the game. If not, S. Kulothungan may get the nod,” Bhowmick added.
Meanwhile, Dipak Mondal, who will lead the glamour outfit for the first time in the absence of Anit, sounded a word of caution for his teammates. “We’ll have to see to it that there’s no chink in defence as we go out in attack. Any lapse and Salgaocar can really make us pay,” the stand-in-captain said.
Meanwhile, the Goa league champions will adapt a safety-first tactic for Sunday’s game. “East Bengal is a real tough opponent and our first aim should be to ensure one point,” Salgaocar coach Savio Mediera said.
The former NFL champions are currently on seven points from five games.
The coach informed that his team boasts of three foreigners, defender Bela Rajak and attackers Sunday Seah and Dudu McPierson. “Dudu played for Sporting Club in the Goa league and was taken on lien for the NFL,” the coach informed. He added his team will play in the 4-4-2 formation.
Conceding that East Bengal is a stronger side, Mediera said: “These kind of matches are generally decided by the performance on the day. Who knows, we might just spring a surprise.”
EAST BENGAL: Sandip Nandy; M. Suresh, Arun Malhotra, Dipak Mondal; Chandan Das, Alvito D’ Cunha, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Shasthi Duley, S. Venkatesh; S. Kulothungan/ Mike Okoro, Gilmar Goncalves.
SALGAOCAR: Juje Siddi; Bela Rajak, Roberto Fernandes, Cowan Lawrens, Manitombi Singh; Dennis Cabral, Dharamjit Singh, Tomba Singh/ Jatin Singh, Bungo Singh; Sunday Seah, Dudu McPierson.