Desperate East Bengal hope to return to winning ways
Kolkata, Feb 3 (PTI) As the I-League title race has opened up after defeat of leaders Minerva Punjab, third-placed East Bengal will look to get some crucial points when they clash with Indian Arrows here tomorrow.
I-League leaders Minerva Punjab's five-match unbeaten run came to an end when Churchill Brothers beat them 2-1 in a closely-contested match in Goa yesterday.
This gives East Bengal a chance to catch up with Minerva, who have 26 points, six more than East Bengal.
Of the six remaining matches, East Bengal play three at home and take on Minerva in an away match as Khalid Jamil's team cannot afford to lose from now on.
Two goals inside the opening quarter of the hour by Mahmoud Al Amna and Katsumi Yusa had handed East Bengal a 2-0 victory over the developmental outfit of the All India Football Federation, last month.
Indian Arrows have three wins from 13 matches as they have 11 points to remain on eighth place in the table.
Incidentally, the win in the capital was East Bengal's last win of the I-League as since then they they dropped points in three matches and suffered a 0-2 thrashing against arch-rivals Mohun Bagan in the derby.
In their last outing, East Bengal bounced back from two goals deficit to hold leaders Minerva Punjab FC to a 2-2 draw on January 30.
Sukhdev Singh (20th minute) and Chencho Gyeltshen (33rd) put Minerva in a commanding position before Joby Justin (59th) and Brandon Vanlalremdika (89th) cancelled them out.
Less than a week later, East Bengal will return to Barasat Stadium as their second half fightback will give them an air of positivity.
"We did not go down easily in the last match. We scored two and we have to fight similarly in this match. They (Indian Arrows) are playing well. We have to play good as well," Jamil said on the eve of their match.
"We must think about our game. It doesn't matter where the match is, our work is to play, no matter where. There is pressure. We have six more games to prove ourselves. We have to rectify our mistakes and move on."
Winless in their three matches, Arrows on the other hand will look for their inspiring show against Mohun Bagan when they returned with a draw.
"This is a place of football. I have very good memories from the time we played against Mohun Bagan," their coach Luis Norton de Matos remembered about their 1-1 draw.
"For us, we are going to try to be our best as usual. East Bengal are a team to challenge. A lot of concentration is needed to face them. It is going to be difficult but not an impossible mission."
"To play at Salt Lake Stadium would have been fantastic for the boys. But we have to play on artificial grass, it is difficult," he commented.
"I am sure they have developed, what people expected from them, they have done better than that. It is important for every club to use boys aged 16-17, only then Indian football will develop