| Sasthi Duley worked tirelessly on the left
|Douglas da Silva excelled as a defensive screen
Jakarta: A momentary lapse of reason in deep defence cost East Bengal their Asean Club Cup-opener against Thailand’s BEC Tero Sasana on Monday.
The 85th-minute strike by Tero Sasana skipper Terdsak Chaiman — the only goal of the match — pushed the India champions to a rather tight corner. They have to beat Army FC of the Philippines in their final group D game Wednesday to nurture hopes of making it to the quarter finals.
Even a draw could suffice, but East Bengal can’t bank on that since Tero Sasana and Army FC play the last match in this group Friday.
It wasn’t a match East Bengal deserved to lose. The teams were evenly matched and though proceedings were dull in the first half, East Bengal looked better on the counters when the game opened up somewhat after the break.
East Bengal went in to the match in an overtly defensive frame of mind — clearly overawed by the reputation of Tero Sasana, who have booked a berth in the final of the inaugural AFC Champions League.
Coach Subhas Bhowmick had a double defensive cover of Douglas da Silva and Debjit Ghosh in front of deep defenders Dipak Mondal, Mahesh Gawli and Suley Musah.
This defensive organisation succeeded in soaking up pressure in the midfield and blocked most of the Tero Sasana raids, but it also kept East Bengal from increasing men up front. Bhaichung Bhutia, the lone forward, was hardly visible in the first half.
Sasthi Duley had a great game, working tirelessly on the left. Playing as a withdrawn left half, the diminutive Sasthi defended with great resolve and always looked to go on the offensive whenever the situation permitted. An off-colour Alvito D’Cunha, however, neutralised Sasthi’s enterprise.
The only chance for either side in the first half came in the 43rd minute. Musah, looking distinctly uncomfortable on the left side of the deep defence, was wrong-footed by an attacker but the Thailand player failed to beat goalkeeper Sandip Nandy from a tight angle.
East Bengal withstood an early second-half charge by Tero Sasana with great commitment and their snatching and blocking in the middle-third was flawless.
Debjit and Douglas played their hearts out with Dipak standing like a rock in the rear. Even the goalkeeper came up with some clean and confident aerial collections.
East Bengal thought they were wronged in the 75th minute when the Thai goalkeeper apparently tripped Shylo Malsawmtluanga just outside the box. The substitute had latched on to a masterly through from Bhaichung, but just as he was about to dodge past the goalkeeper and shoot, he was brought down.
It looked like an infringement and the referee from Brunei overlooked it. East Bengal players immediately surrounded the official and skipper Musah was lucky to get away without a card despite making aggressive gestures.
Just as it seemed East Bengal will take home a point, disaster struck Bhowmick’s team. Jatupong Thongsukh and Chaiman worked their way through a crowded midfield and defence and though they were well outnumbered, somehow managed to reach the goalmouth from where the skipper sent in an expert right-footed chip into the goal, past an advancing goalkeeper.
Bhowmick blames ref
“It was 100 per cent penalty and a red card offence. It was definitely in the box. The referee should have given us the penalty.
“But when that did not happen, the players, and they are only human beings, lost concentration and that led to the goal,” said Bhowmick of the challenge on Malsawmtluanga.
“It was a good tactical match and we had many chances but could not score. I was rather surprised by Tero Sasana as they are finalists of the AFC Champions League. But today they showed that they can be beaten,” the East Bengal coach said.
Tero Sasana coach Attapol Puspakom said: “The infringement definitely happened outside the box. Anyway, I can’t say much for it was the referee who decides on such matters. At the very least it could have been an indirect free-kick. East Bengal surprised us and are a good aggressive side.
“They were very fast and were quick to pressure us which they did constantly. We are pleased to have got the three points.”
BEC Tero Sasana:Phansa Meesattham; Pretarat Proundee, Witthaya Nabthong, Satid Mukkratok, Adu Sunday Omojola, Wuttiya Yongant (Anucha Kitpongsri, 61), Jatupong Thongsukh, Thanongsak Pajakkata, Terdsak Chaiman, Datsakorn Thonglao, Panai Kongpapan (Sakchai Yuntasri, 86).
East Bengal: Sandip Nandy; Dipak Mondal, Mahesh Gawli, Suley Musah; Douglas da Silva, Debjit Ghosh, Sur Kumar Singh; Alvito D’Cunha (M. Suresh, 86), Bijen Singh (Shylo Malsawmtluanga, 65), Sasthi Duley; Bhaichung Bhutia.