I-League 2017: East Bengal 1-1 Aizawl FC - Analysis
The opening fixture of the 10th edition of the I-league kicked off with East Bengal taking on Aizawl FC at the Barasat stadium, Kolkata. The home side fielded Wedson Anselme as the solo foreigner while the other two found their places on the bench.
The visitors went for the conventional 4-4-2 with their three foreign signings ruling the defence, midfield and attack. New signing Jayesh Rane started up front while Ashutosh Mehta was in the reserves.
It was an even performance from both the sides as the match ended 1-1. Both the goals were scored by East Bengal defenders, with Gurwinder Singh scoring an own goal and Ivan Bukenya equalising in the dying minutes.
The initial attacks came from the Calcutta giants while Aizawl FC were happy containing the attacks. The visitors held their nerve and left the home side hankering for the breakthrough. It was East Bengal throughout the first half as they kept knocking at the opposition goal.
The Haitian recruit Wedson had his first attempt on the Aizawl goal easily saved by Albino Gomes. His attacking edge was somewhat left unutilised due to his withdrawn central midfield role. The cautious approach of Coach Trevor James Morgan was evident with this kind of a ploy.
Tragic own goal
Tragedy struck East Bengal late in the first half as the visitors got their noses ahead. The Nigerian under-22 forward Bayi Kamo prepared to shoot past the onrushing TP Rehenes when Gurwinder Singh in an attempt to clear the threat put the ball in his own net. It was a shocker of a goal against the run of play which put the away side ahead.
The second half sprang another surprise as the new recruit Willis Plaza was brought on in place of Jackichand Singh. It was a brave move as the Trinidad and Tobago striker had arrived barely 24 hours ago. Morgan went for the 4-4-2 to counter his opposition, pairing Plaza and Rafique up front.
But the start was dominated by Aizawl FC as they produced a fine save from TP Rehenesh and then hit the bar from the resultant corner. The momentum suddenly shifted in favour of the visitors as East Bengal tried to adjust to their rejigged shape.
East Bengal’s struggles
The lack of coordination was evident as players were found wanting in their whereabouts. Rowllin Borges was all over the place, sometimes in the number 10 role while at other times he was running through the flanks. The dearth of a compact midfield pricked the hosts who tried to don a 3-man central midfield with Wedson, Mehtab Hossain and Borges. Consequently, Khalid Jamil’s youthful team piled on the pressure with their incisive passing and incessant running.
It was getting increasingly difficult for Morgan’s lads to find the elusive equaliser. Plaza impressed with his touches and almost opened up the Aizawl defence but was denied by some dogged defending. After travelling across three time zones, the Trinidad and Tobago international was the pick of the East Bengal bunch.
Ivan Bukenya made his debut when he replaced Gurwinder Singh in the 65th minute. Coach Morgan threw on all his foreign signings in his search for the equaliser. However, the home attack looked quite toothless when compared to the speed and guile of the Highlanders.
The build up was there from Rafique and Co. but the lack of a finisher was evident. Plaza seemed the most likely player to score when he forced Albino Gomes to palm away a decent effort. Another foreign recruit, Wedson, had a harrowing time as he was mostly found out by the opposition.
Bukenya, however, made his presence felt from a Mehtab corner as he dived in to head home the equaliser in the 88th minute. It was a decent floater which was deflected towards the path of the defender.
The match ended 1-1 and East Bengal went home the happier side. But, with this performance against the newbies, the furrows on Morgan’s forehead would only go deeper.
The team seemed disjointed and were found wanting in a number of departments. Rowllin Borges disappointed with his lacklustre performance in the midfield. Jackichand Singh was largely ineffective before being replaced by Abhinas Ruidas. The centre backs of East Bengal also looked jaded and unfit.
Aizawl FC proved to be the better side in the second half before East Bengal launched their attacking warship. Till the 75th minute, the visitors were on the lookout for the second goal to help consolidate their position. But some shoddy touches in the opposite penalty box allowed the home side to avert any sort of danger. Overall, it was a tough game for the home side, and they need to make amends if they are to win the coveted trophy.