Desperate EB hope to snatch full points against Chennai
Kolkata, Feb 23 (PTI) After a wait of 14 years, East Bengal finally see a realistic chance to win the I-League and they will be desperate to snatch full points against Chennai City in a vital fixture here tomorrow.
Bitter rivals Mohun Bagan have won the league in 2015 but the red-and-gold brigade still await the coveted trophy. It was under Subhas Bhowmick that East Bengal had won the erstwhile National Football League way back in 2004 before it was rechristened as I-League in 2007.
Neroca FC may be sitting at the top of the table, but realistically it seems to be a fight between the two second and third placed sides -- Minerva Punjab and East Bengal. Both Neroca and East Bengal have three matches in hand but the former have a three-point advantage.
In such a scenario, East Bengal will have to win their remaining three matches -- the next being at Shillong Lajong and the final round here against Neroca FC on March 8 -- and pray that Minerva drop points in one of their three matches.
With the likely scenario of a I-League and Indian Super Legue merger from next season, the year may perhaps provides one last chance to East Bengal to win the I-League.
At least their captain Katsumi Yusa, who incidentally had won the I-League for Mohun Bagan, knows the significance and the mercurial Japanese midfielder termed it a pressure of 14 years.
"We have three matches more. We have to play with concentration, match by match. We will show our spirit, we will show our guts, we will show our football.
"We have been without a trophy for 14 years. I would say 14 years' pressure is on us. I've to take this pressure, I cannot avoid," Yusa told reporters on the eve of their match.
He said he's experiencing such a situation for the first time in his decade-long playing career.
"It's an exciting situation. It's not time to talk but show our football on the pitch. We will give our best. Let's see."
Conceding late goals is a concern but Katsumi said they would look to play as a team and refused to blame the defence.
"We made some collective mistakes. It's a team game. We have to stay focused, very important is the team work. The key would be to focus on the first 30-45 minutes. If we do well there then we can build on the momentum."
East Bengal suffered a bitter 1-2 defeat at Gokulam Kerala in their last outing but Katsumi said he does not want to talk about the past.
Safe from the relegation zone, Chennai City have nothing to lose and will look to play party-poppers.
They are fresh from a 3-1 defeat of Churchill Brothers at home and are unbeaten in five matches.
Minerva Punjab were firm favourites leading the table by a distance but back-to-back losses to East Bengal and debutants Gokulam Kerala FC have thrown the league wide open.
The Punjab outfit take on Aizawl FC in its next match on Feburary 26, followed by an away fixture in Chennai on March 2