I-League 2018-19: Big boost for East Bengal before Kolkata Derby against Mohun Bagan as Enrique Esqueda returns
I-League club East Bengal received a major boost ahead of the second leg of their most important fixture – the Kolkata Derby against Mohun Bagan on Sunday, January 27. Mexican striker Enrique Esqueda returned to the city on Monday after recovering from a rib injury.
Esqueda was scheduled to arrive on Sunday night but a delay in the flight saw him reach Kolkata only on Monday morning. Supporters even gathered at the airport to welcome him back.
Paleta, as Esqueda is famously known to the world, broke his rib in the match against Gokulam Kerala FC on December 8. He didn’t feature in the second half of that game and coach Alejandro Menendez informed after the match that the striker has suffered a chest pain, which happened to be because of a broken rib as later examinations revealed.
However, East Bengal maintained their supremacy and won four matches since Esqueda left, including the first leg of the Kolkata Derby against Mohun Bagan. But in most of the matches, East Bengal struggled for goals in the absence of a striker in their line-up.
Esqueda has scored three goals in the I-League so far from six matches, earning one man of the match award in the process. He played a pivotal role in East Bengal’s win against Neroca and Shillong Lajong in the opening away fixtures. His understanding with Jobby Justin has earned him praise from pundits.
Jobby Justin has scored seven goals so far in the campaign. But in the last few matches, he has struggled to convert goals due to lack of support of an able partner. East Bengal’s signings of Jaime Santos and Toni Dovale meant they created more chances in matches but failed to convert most of the opportunities.
Now that Esqueda has returned, East Bengal for the first time this season will get the service of all six foreigners. His arrival before the Derby will surely boost the whole team, as East Bengal are still in a position to challenge for the title.
Menendez has already made a promise that he will give some minutes to Esqueda in the Derby. Given the position of his condition, the Mexican might well be included in the starting line-up. That means either Santos or Dovale will have to warm the bench.
East Bengal are fourth on the I-League table with 22 points from 12 matches. A win in the Kolkata Derby will see East Bengal climb up to the second spot.