| Jiten Rai (centre) being congratulated by teammates after he scored East Bengal’s second goal against Vasco in their IFA Shield semi-final tie at the Salt Lake Stadium Sunday. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta: It’s no ‘mystery’ now. East Bengal’s bench strength is good enough to rise to the occasion and come in handy whenever the chips are down.
After his team’s passage to the IFA Shield final, beating Vasco SC of Goa 2-0 under lights at Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday, coach Subhas Bhowmick can take pride in deciphering the truth.
During the group league, he had seen the both sides of the coin — his team’s loss as well as rise to the billing when required. “It’s really a mystery where from these boys are getting motivation to stay in the competition,” he had said of his wards after beating Tollygunge Agragami and making it to the last-four stage.
“The success is in the strength of my bench. I know now these boys are ready to take on anybody. They have proved this by beating a team like Vasco,” Bhowmick said in a post-match analysis Sunday.
“Success is always sweet… It’s sweeter when you have won and reached another final,” remarked Bhowmick, giving his boys all the credit for the show.
In the title-round on Wednesday, East Bengal, who were awarded last year’s title by default, after a violence-marred final with Brazil’s Palmeiras, will face another Goan outfit Churchill Brothers, a 3-2 winner over Tata Football Academy in the other semi-final.
If Mike Okoro and Tushar Rakshit were the key men in East Bengal’s success in the Durand Cup, this tournament is proving to be a comeback for the discard Suley Musah.
Bhowmick, however, refused to buy such idea of individuals overtaking the importance of the team as a whole. “It’s the team game which is carrying us through and Musah is part of it,” he said. The coach, though, was all praise for the Ghanaian’s rousing comeback from injuries. “The way he (Musah) has returned to action from injuries is praiseworthy,” he added.
Musah, who Bhowmick described as “Kapil Dev of my team”, said the supporters had inspired him to come out of injuries. “But nothing can satisfy me unless we become the champions,” he maintained.
Vasco captain Rogerio Ramos, on the other hand, blamed bad luck for his team’s defeat. “We did everything but scoring. It’s just bad luck,” he said.
“However, the world does not end here. The National League is our top priority and once Marcos (Pereira) joins the team, things will fall in place,” Ramos added.
Meanwhile, organisers IFA has decided to hold the final much earlier on Wednesday, so that Churchill Brothers’ National Football League preparations are not hampered.
Churchill will take on JCT at home in the next NFL match on Friday. In a bid to help them reach home in time, IFA has decided to send the Goan team by flight which will cost them an extra Rs 60,000 .
n Reports on page 19