Durand Cup 2019: East Bengal 2-1 Bengaluru FC - 5 talking points
East Bengal edged past Bengaluru FC by 2-1 in the former's final Durand Cup 2019 league stage match to enter the knockout stages at the Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday. They will face the Group D winner in the semi-finals a week later.
Bengaluru FC silenced everyone when they took the lead in the 17th minute through a brilliant build-up. After Edmund Lalrindika's shot hit the bar, Ajay Chhetri, who was lurking in the box, scored with a brilliant placement.
East Bengal came out with a different approach in the second half and scored two goals. On both occasions, it was Manipuri player Bidyashagar Singh, who came on as a second-half substitute who found the back of the net.
Here are five talking points from the game.
#5 East Bengal defense faces a tough test for the first time
East Bengal released Johnny Acosta before the start of the season and signed another Spaniard Marti Crespi from Indian Super League side Delhi Dynamos to strengthen their squad. Besides signing Asheer Akhtar from Bengaluru FC, East Bengal had retained almost the entirety of their squad.
Before the Bengaluru match, the Red and Golds defense wasn’t put under a test a whole lot. From the three matches they played, they conceded only once, against George Telegraph.
However, Bengaluru put up a strong challenge to the defense unit. The Bengaluru FC youngsters toyed with East Bengal defenders in the first half and mostly relied on counter-attacks as they exploited the opposition's defense repeatedly.
#4 Bengaluru lose focus in the second half
It was all about Bengaluru in the first half. The ISL champions, who came here with their reserve side brought their best on to the field for the first half. After a poor outing against Army Red, this was a new-look Bengaluru FC side that turned up against East Bengal.
However, in the 2nd half, they took things a bit casually and eventually fell to the pressure applied by the opposition. East Bengal, for their part, started on an attacking note after the break and scored the equalizer in the 59th minute after applying continuous pressure on Bengaluru.
They netted the winner 15 minutes later after another defensive mistake from Advait Shinde as the young Bengaluru FC unit was left lamenting a lack of focus in the second half.
#3 Second half magic from East Bengal
It seems as if East Bengal have made it a habit of producing their best performance in the second half. In their opening match against Army Red, they were lackluster in the first half but produced a magical performance in the second half and finished with all the three points.
They didn’t have to wait too long against Bengaluru. In another second-half master class, their goals came in 59th and 74th minute respectively. Given that they had three proven stars on their side against a team full of youngsters, yet, they found it tough to score a goal in the opening 45 minutes.
Jaime Santos Colado, who made a comeback after recuperating from his injury, was inefficient in the attacking third while Lalrindika Ralte’s free-kick was innocuous. East Bengal earned an indirect free-kick within the box only for Lalrindika to hit the wall as a good chance went begging for East Bengal.
#2 Is Bidyashagar Singh going to be East Bengal’s next Jobby Justin?
Last season, East Bengal coach Alejandro Menendez put his money on Jobby Justin leading the pack. The Keralite came up with impressive performances throughout the season and found able support from Mexican striker Enrique Esqueda.
As both Esqueda and Justin left this season, the onus was on Menendez to come out with like-for-like substitutes. He opted to hand out an opportunity to Marcos Jimenez from Atletico Baleares, while Bidyashagar Singh, who made an entry to the senior team for the academy, is now Menendez’s go-to man in the squad.
Bidyasagar scored both the goals on Wednesday to win the match for his team and already has five goals to his name from the ongoing tournament. The youngster has the speed and along with that hunger and skills to score a goal. His positioning was also good and could prove to be a game-changer in the games to come.
#1 Tough test ahead for East Bengal
The Red and Golds qualified for the Durand Cup semi-final with three wins from as many matches and all through the tournament, they have scored 10 goals and conceded only one.
Menendez is giving this tournament more importance than the Calcutta Football League. This is why he prepares the best squad for each match. The players haven't disappointed with their performances.
But in the semi-final, it is going to be a tough test for East Bengal. They will most probably face Gokulam Kerala, who also have their first squad in place and are on song.