Having been 4-0 down after 48 minutes in the first leg of their AFC Cup semi-final first leg, it looked like there was no way back for East Bengal but the red-and-gold brigade somehow fought back and scored two away goals to keep this tie alive.
Ahead of Tuesday’s second leg in Kolkata, East Bengal skipper Mehtab Hossain admitted that they showed too much respect to the defending AFC Cup champions three weeks ago.
“I think yes (we paid too much respect) that was the case because before the match there was so much talk about their quality and experience that we were possibly a bit scared to play our natural game. But at 4-0 we played a bit without fear and at the end of the match we realised that we should have had a go at them from the very first start. That is something we will have to do in this second leg,” Mehtab said.
East Bengal must win the second leg by at least a two-goal margin so an early goal is important but Mehtab also pointed out the importance of keeping a clean sheet.
“It is a difficult challenge for us as we have to score a lot of goals against a quality side but we also can’t afford to concede because it will only make our task harder. This kind of matches doesn’t happen too often in your career so we are going to give more than 100 % and hopefully reach the final,” he stated.
In order to motivate the squad, East Bengal organised a special interactive session between the players and ten former coaches of the club on Saturday. The midfield general believes the pep talk from those legends has helped in the team’s preparations.
“I feel for big matches the mental preparation is more important than any technical or tactical aspect so that session really helped all of us. We were motivated by all of them but in particular by the legendary PK Banerjee who advised us to believe in ourselves and not look at the differences between the sides on paper,” the India international concluded.