Monday, 30th October 2017

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Mohammedan Sporting plot East Bengal fall

Three victories on the trot, Mohammedan Sporting are on a roll

By Sayak Banerjee in Calcutta
  • Published 26.09.19, 2:27 AM
  • Updated 26.09.19, 2:27 AM
  • 2 mins read
East Bengal’s Jaime Santos (left) and Juan Mera Gonzalez after a training session at the SAI ground on Wednesday Pictures by Santosh Ghosh

 The dream of recreating the glory of 1981 is driving Mohammedan Sporting.

Three victories on the trot, Mohammedan Sporting are on a roll and on Thursday at the Salt Lake Stadium they are eyeing another scalp — East Bengal’s.

Very few had thought Thursday’s clash would turn out to be the most awaited contest so far of this CFL Premier Division Group A.

Already on top of the Premier Division A table with 19 points, victory against East Bengal will give Mohammedan Sporting the title if on the other hand, Peerless SC also drop points against NBP Rainbow AC on Friday.

Peerless will still be having one more game to play, but in that case, they can reach maximum 21 points.

Considering how well Mohammedan Sporting have turned things around in their last three matches, they have every right to dream.

East Bengal too are ready to end Mohammedan Sporting’s winning streak. Besides, Alejandro Menendez Garcia’s men too would become one of the strong contenders to lift the trophy if they win on Thursday.

Failing to live up to expectations in the goalless Derby against Bagan, Jaime Santos, Lalrindika Ralte and the likes must be keen to come up with a performance of note in a crunch game before the I-League begins.

But all said and done, if Peerless hogged the limelight in the first phase of this CFL, Mohammedan Sporting turned on the style in the second. And the man who played a massive role behind the turnaround of their fortunes is technical director Dipendu Biswas.

Not just motivating the players during that disappointing phase, but getting the younger and fitter players together, making Tirthankar Sarkar and Vanlalbiaa Chhange operate with such efficiency and not being over-reliant on overseas strikers have been among Dipendu’s contributions.

A youngster like Satyam Sharma has had the freedom to express himself under Dipendu’s guidance.

Obviously, none of the players in the current XI of Mohammedan Sporting would be able to relate to those moments of 1981 when the club had last won the CFL. But their determination to lift the trophy could be gauged during the match-eve training session. Their intensity didn’t seem to be dropping at all even when it rained cats and dogs on Wednesday morning.

“The entire team is charged up. Looking at how we played in the last two matches, against Mohun Bagan and Peerless SC, we just need to maintain that momentum.

“We won our last three matches convincingly. Those nine points do matter,” Dipendu said after a practice session.

If weather conditions don’t improve, Dipendu feels its advantage Mohammedan Sporting. “These conditions will help us. We have seven local players who grew up playing in slushy grounds.

“Apart from them, we have Chhangte, who according to me, has been the league’s best midfielder and our three overseas players. These guys from Africa are also equipped (than Spaniards) to deal with such conditions.”

These words from Dipendu didn’t go down well with Alejandro, who retorted: “That’s his opinion… Some people talk a lot.”

The Spaniard has full faith in his Spanish brigade to rise to the occasion irrespective of the ground conditions. “We will be a team that won’t be looking for excuses. We will take the field only to win,” Alejandro maintained.

Midfield is both teams’ strength, as it boils down to how well the pairs — Tirthankar-Chhange and Jaime-Juan Mera Gonzelez — fare against each other. But the current form of strikers John Chidi and Arthur Kouassi may give an edge to Mohammedan Sporting.

Alejandro, though, has a solution to that. “We just need to score a goal more than them,” he quipped.

  • Kick-off: 3 pm