| Lalrindika Ralte celebrates his goal with captain Sanju Pradhan and Edeh Chidi, at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Wednesday. A Telegraph picture |
Calcutta: It was ‘lucky 13’ for Trevor James Morgan, on Wednesday.
Without a win in 12 AFC Cup matches since he took over the reins, Morgan recorded his first when East Bengal defeated Selangor FA 1-0 in a Group H tie, at the Salt Lake Stadium.
Lalrindika Ralte scored gem of a goal when his 20-yard shot crashed into the far corner beating the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Norazlan Razali in the 42nd minute.
Ralte, who idolises Cristiano Ronaldo and is inspired by the Real Madrid star’s ability to hit target from long rangers, has been a revelation this season. He scored one during the Federation Cup semi-final against Churchill Brothers and one with his right-foot in the CFL match against Aryan. A natural left-footer, this young midfielder is the one for future.
On Wednesday, he once again showed why his coach rates him as one of the most promising footballers in the country. The Mizo player along with Sanju Pradhan put up a stellar performance in the midfield as East Bengal took wind out of the Selangor sails.
Already reeling under the shocking news that central defender Ramez Dayoub has been banned for life by the Lebanese Football Association, Selangor were left to chase shadows throughout the 90 minute.
“No 15 (Sanju) and No. 21 (Ralte) destroyed us,” Selangor coach Irfan Bakti conceded at the mandatory post-match conference.
“I practise long-rangers every day. I scored one during the Federation Cup and that gave me the confidence. I also watch how Cristiano takes those shots. The trajectory, the power… It’s amazing how he does that day in an day out,” the shy Ralte said at the mixed zone.
“It’s my first goal at an international club competition. It will always be special. I missed one earlier in the match but I was not bogged down by that. I kept on trying and now I am here talking to the media. I am enjoying the attention but my feet are firmly on the ground.”
Ralte should also consider himself lucky to have a coach like Morgan at such a young age. Morgan has used him well giving him the confidence. He did not throw him directly into the cauldron… instead Ralte was used as a substitute.
It’s now that Ralte is ready for bigger things that Morgan decided to give him starts.
And boy! He hasn’t disappointed his coach till now. We just hope he just doesn’t disappear into oblivion like his statemate PC Lalawmpuiya who burst into the scene in a dramatic fashion some six seasons back.
It was one of the most disciplined performances one has seen from East Bengal in recent times. The defence was rock solid and the midfield linked up excellently with the frontline duo of Andrew Barisic and Edeh Chidi.
Had East Bengal converted even half of the chances they got, the scoreline could have been 5-0 at half-time.
Chidi header from close hit the post as early as in the fourth minute, Penn Orji volleyed straight to the goalkeeper from handshaking distance and Barisic drilled it wide from inside the six-yard box after Ralte freed him on the right.
And then in the second half Barisic tapped it wide infront of an open goal following a looping Chidi delivery from the right. In the dying moments, a fabulous Penn volley was acrobatically saved by Razali.
But these are minor aberrations in the bigger perspective for Morgan who knows missing chances are not as ominous as the failure to create openings.
It’s not that Selangor didn’t break free for once. They did a couple of times. Once Francis Forkey Doe was left unmarked but the Liberian’s poor first touch allowed East Bengal goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh to avert the danger.
And then Doe slalomed past Raju Gaekwad but his grounder was well saved by Gurpreet.
That’s all the visitors could do in the entire match. On the eve of the match Bakti had promised good attacking football. May be his boys have saved it for their home match against East Bengal!
East Bengal: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Harmonjyot Singh Khabra Soumik Dey, Raju Gaekwad, Uga Okpara, Mehtab Hussain, Sanju Pradhan, Penn Orji, Lalrindika Ralte, Edeh Chidi (Baljit Sahni 85), Andrew Barisic (Robin Singh 89).
Selangor FA: Norazlan Razali, Mohammed Asraruddin, Adib Aizuddin, Abdul Shukor (Fairuz Aziz 68), Francis Forkey Doe, Mohammed Raimi, Peter Chrappan, Amri Yahyah (Mohammed Afiq 88), Mahali Jasuli, Michal Kubala (Gurusamy Kandasamy 80), S. Veenod.
Referee: Shamsuzzaman Hasan Tayeb (Bangladesh).