Kashmir make East Bengal toil
Serpentine queues leading to the Kalyani Stadium, a 10000 square feet tifo unfurled by the fans... The atmosphere was festive before East Bengal’s I-League opener against Real Kashmir FC on Wednesday evening.
But what transpired on the pitch was something East Bengal never envisaged. Taking the field for full points, the hosts were trailing till the 76th minute and had to remain satisfied with a point.
Full marks to Real Kashmir for the 1-1 draw and they would take the Thursday morning flight out of Calcutta with a happy mind.
Gnohere Krizo punished East Bengal for some sloth defending and silenced the crowd with a clinical finish in the 32nd minute.
In the 76th minute, East Bengal restored parity, thanks to Marcos de la Espada’s smart finish after Juan Mera played a square to his compatriot. “It’s a match we should have won,” Juan, who was adjudged Man of the Match, said later.
If East Bengal looked completely out of sorts in the first half, Real Kashmir were all about guts and doggedness. Coach David Robertson has instilled a sense of belief in this team. It’s a no nonsense approach that makes this squad so difficult to beat.
“The core team is together for the last three years and that makes us very strong. We do not yield an inch without a fight. That’s the spirit of the team,” Robertson said at the post-match media conference.
So true. The likes of Danish Farooq, Farhan Ganie, Ritwick Das and Arshpreet Singh gave enough hints that they have the appetite to fight. Arshpreet, in particular, was brilliant doing a lot of running down the right flank and once made a timely clearance off one of the many East Bengal corners.
“I’m happy to go home with a point. Everyone chipped in and if you ask me I am more than satisfied with the day’s performance. We knew it’s our first match and it would be difficult,” Robertson added.
East Bengal improved their game by a few notches after the change of ends but could not break down the Real Kashmir defence. Marcos was guilty on most of the occasions.
“First half we were playing well. At half-time I told the boys to be patient and the goal would come. I also told them to think that it’s still goalless and not 0-1,” East Bengal coach Alejandro Menendez Garcia said.
Talking about the goal Krizo scored, East Bengal had only themselves to blame for. The East Bengal captain was slow to react to a long ball from Aaron Katebe. And Krizo with a swerve left him for the dead.
Mehtab Singh, the central defender, was still trying to fathom what he should do and the Ivory Coast forward bent it superbly into the far corner past a diving goalkeeper Lalthuammawia Ralte.
“Marking should have been better and I think it was our only mistake in the game,” Alejandro said.
Well it was definitely not the only mistake but the second half performance would give East Bengal fans some reasons to smile about.