Calcutta, Jan. 18: All along since East Bengal started their campaign in the TVS Fiero IFA Shield, coach Subhas Bhowmick has been harping on his disenchantment with the system at large, blaming it for rendering his much-vaunted reserve bench emptier by the day.
All along he wished if he could quit in protest against the unsettled schedule. His team even suffered their maiden loss at home during the tournament, but in the end, they have managed to stay in contention. His manoeuvring of the “over-consumed” resource has come to such a pass that he was forced to play second-string goalkeeper Arpan De as striker in the previous match against Tollygunge Agragami.
Interestingly, Bhowmick, as a desperate measure, sent his wards to a medical clinic for undergoing acupuncture on Friday. But apart from a couple of players, most fled the clinic in fear of needles!
It’s history, however. Though his resources remain as good as anybody’s guess, Bhowmick knows deep in his heart that he can no longer look forward to the future in the same vein.
Come Sunday, it is semi-final, after all. There is now a growing pressure of adding another feather in the club’s cap after the Duran Cup success. And it is coming from the officials, the fans and, probably from the person within him as well.
“Everybody knows what I have at my disposal. However, once you have reached so far, you can’t think of losing the match, isn’t it'” observed Bhowmick on Saturday. “With whatever players I’ll finally get tomorrow, I will only aim for a win. May be, I’ll be a bit cautious in my approach,” he further revealed.
For East Bengal’s opponents in the semi-final, Vasco SC, it is nothing but hitting a jackpot. “We never thought we would make it to the knock-out stage. But thanks to Mohammedan Sporting’s loss, we got through,” admitted Vasco midfielder Samshi Reza.
“Lady Luck may have smiled on us, but we have got a chance and we need to prove something,” the player said.
Vasco coach Derek Pereira, incidentally, left for Goa to attend to his ailing wife Friday night. Following his departure, captain Rogerio Ramos held a team-meeting where he stressed on the talent depletion in the red-gold brigade. “We can’t have a worse East Bengal side. So we have a very good chance to beat them even on their home soil,” Ramos was learnt to have told his team.
The Vasco outfit, however, needs to be readjusted following the non-availability of Reza in midfield and Minino Fernandes in striking zone, both because of injury. Defender Satish Minz is also a doubtful starter.
Bhowmick, on the other hand, has at least something to cheer about in the form of K. Kulothungan’s availability.
“Kulothungan will play tomorrow, but I’m yet to decide how (Suley) Musah can be used best. If situation demands, I may make a departure from the usual 4-4-2 to 3-5-2 and he may play as a midfielder,” he said. The coach also put to rest any other chance of using Arpan as a striker.
EAST BENGAL (likely): Sangram Mukherjee; Amjad Ali, Arun Malhotra, Sankarlal Chakraborty; Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Shasthi Duley, Douglas de Silva Santos, Suley Musah, Soumitra Chakraborty; Kulothungan, Trijit Das.
VASCO SC (likely): Rogerio Ramos; Seby Dias, Sanjay Parte, Franky Barreto, Agnelo Colaco; Sushanth Matthew, Riston Rodrigues, Anthony Fernandes, Santa Singh; Rui Wanderley, Nitin Pradhan.
Uncertainty over final
Both Churchill Brothers and Vasco SC have held strong reservations against playing the final on Wednesday. “We would have no problem in playing it on Sunday (as per the original schedule). But we have an NFL match against JCT on Saturday. If we make it to the Shield final, we may give it a second thought. After all, National League is our top priority,” said a Vasco player.
Meanwhile, IFA joint secretary Ranjit Gupta revealed that he had talked with AIFF secretary Albert Colaco in the morning in this regard and the final will be held as scheduled on Wednesday.