The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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East Bengal aim at 25-pt mark

Calcutta: The East Bengal juggernaut has been on a roll this season, crushing everything that has come its way. The red-and-gold brigade is keen to carry on the good work as the first phase of the National Football League draws to an end.

On the eve of their last NFL match of the first phase, coach Subhas Bhowmick looks more than satisfied. “We aimed for 25 points in the first phase. With 24 from ten matches, I don’t think garnering one point from tomorrow’s game will be too difficult,” he observed on Sunday.

Elaborating on the point, the coach added: “I have seen the record of the NFL for the past few years and no team has crossed the 25 point-mark in the first phase still now. So this should hold us in good stead for the remainder of the league,” he added.

And the way Dempo SC were hammered 1-5 in their last match against Mohun Bagan, things really look rosy for the city giants.

But that in no way makes the East Bengal coach complacent.

“Dempo is a good side, even in the match against Mohun Bagan, they played well for the first 44 minutes. What happened thereafter might be an accident,” Bhowmick felt.

And though the run-away lead gives Bhowmick satisfaction, he did not forget to mention that the league is very much open. “Teams like Air India, Mahindra have slid down the ladder after taking leads. So we have to be extra cautious to ensure that doesn’t happen to us,” he said.

The East Bengal strike-force, which was not performing at its best in the initial phase of the league, has been on song for the last two games, scoring eight goals. But the defence, which had showed an air of invincibility earlier, has started showing little chinks, letting in four against ITI and HAL.

Deepak Mondal, who had been sidelined due to injury for quite sometime, made a comeback in the last match, but his performance has not been impressive, much to the club officials’ disappointment. Dipankar Roy, meanwhile, is set to start in place of an injured Chandan Das.

However, Bhowmick seemed happy with most of his boys recovering from injury. Malswamtluanga, Anit Ghosh, Subhas Chakraborty, Gilmar Goncalves and Subhashish Roy Chowdhury are still nursing a few niggles. “But the other boys look to be in good shape and that’s a relief for me,” the coach added.

Dempo, meanwhile, looked determined to overcome the Bagan nightmare. “We haven’t reached the 20-point mark by accident. Against Bagan, it was just a bad day and we are confident of proving that,” coach Almando Colaco said, adding he wanted at least one point against East Bengal.

“We are also trying to complete the formalities and play our Sri Lankan striker A. B. Channa tomorrow,” Colaco added. They already have two foreigners in their ranks — Andreev Sergey of Ukraine and Jose Luciano of Brazil.

Bagan determined

Defending champions Mohun Bagan, after a forgettable beginning to their title defence, have looked a determined a lot in their last two matches against Indian Bank and Dempo. The Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya is keen to ensure that their recent winning run is carried on.

“I plan to go 4-3-3 for tomorrow’s match,” the coach said on the eve of their match against Salgaocar Sunday. With Jose Ramirez Barreto and George Ekeh upfront, Bhattacharya plans to have Shiekh Sanjeeb in a withdrawal position.

Barreto seems to have left behind his poor form and going by his performance against Indian Bank and Dempo in the last couple of matches, he looks much sharper and eager to score. In fact, he was adjudged Man of the Match against Dempo. “A victory is vital and 21 points in the first phase will keep us in the run,” he added.

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