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Ralte gives Koevermans food for thought

FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 28 Feb 2013, 00:04 IST
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AFC Football Cup Group H: East Bengal V Selangor FC

Lalrindika Ralte may not be a household name even for the people infused into the world of Indian football. But with every game, he is making people turn their heads and take notice. His skilful play at the heart of the East Bengal midfield has been one of the reasons why the Kolkata giants still harbour ambitions to lift the title in this year’s I-League.

His recent play, which has been lauded by all and sundry, however was not enough to make Wim Koevermans include the Mizo kid in the squad for the AFC Challenge cup. If the kid from Mizoram had any anger entwined in his soul because of his recent rejection, he found the perfect way to channelise it.

It was Malaysian side Selangor who faced the wrath of Ralte, as the midfielder produced one of the finest performances by an Indian footballer on the Asian club scene. Alongside Mehtab Hossain, Ralte set about running the rule in midfield in today’s AFC Cup game.

It was evident that he seemed like a man possessed, switching play from one end of the field to the other, disrupting play and playing in perfectly weighted through balls and passes down the flank for Barisic and Edeh Chidi  to chase down. East Bengal enjoyed success owing to Chidi’s prowess, both in the air as well as on the right, but it was down to Ralte and Hossain to provide him ample balls to prey on.

The midfield duo also shielded the backline from any threat posed by the likes of  Michal Kubala. In fact, as the game rolled on, Selangor’s highly touted striker Francis Doe, who was the only player who looked threatening in the Malaysian side, had to come ever so deep to influence the game, as the midfield dominance of the the red-and-gold snuffed out the supply to the Liberian hitman.

In spite of all the dominance, the one thing that East Bengal lacked was the finishing. With Andrew Barisic being wasteful in front of goal, Edeh Chidi hitting the post and Penn Orji succeeding only to hit the goalkeeper from 5 yards out, it was only fitting that the winner came from the boots of a certain Lalrindika Ralte.

If Ralte keeps on providing performances like he did today, it won’t be long that we see the southpaw on Koevermans’ team sheet. Seeing his name not on the squad list may have hurt the midfielder, but it may just turn out to a blessing in disguise for both him and Indian football in years to come.

Highlights of the game:

Published 28 Feb 2013, 00:04 IST
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