Updated: Apr 6
Panaji, Feb 28: SC East Bengal's maiden Hero Indian Super League campaign was a rather underwhelming one. Having amassed 17 points from 20 matches (3 wins, 8 draws and 9 defeats), Robbie Fowler's side finished ninth on the league table.
Although the Red-and-Golds played well in patches and displayed an attractive brand of possession-based football, the lack of adequate pre-season preparation was evident throughout the season.
SCEB played 6 matches in February, winning 1, drawing 2 and losing 4.
In the first match of the month, against Bengaluru FC at the Tilak Maidan Stadium on February 2, SCEB lost 0-2. BFC got on the scoresheet through Cleiton Silva and an own-goal by Debjit Majumder, while SCEB failed to register a single shot on target in this 'home' fixture.
Five days later, on February 7, the Red-and-Golds registered this season's third and final victory against Jamshedpur FC at the Fatorda Stadium. In charge of the team in Fowler's absence, Assistant Coach Tony Grant made six changes to the line-up as Sarthak Golui, Sourav Das and Subrata Paul earned their first starts this season. Matti Steinmann and Anthony Pilkington starred with goals in this 2-1 win, while JFC captain Peter Hartley pulled one back for his side in the final quarter.
On February 12, SCEB were up against Manolo Marquez's Hyderabad FC, to whom they lost 2-3 in the first-leg. The reverse fixture at the Tilak Maidan Stadium ended 1-1 as Bright Enobakhare's stunning 59th minute strike was canceled out by HFC skipper Aridane Santana's last-gasp equaliser.
A week later, the Red-and-Golds faced cross-town rivals ATK Mohun Bagan in the season's second Kolkata derby at the Fatorda Stadium. SCEB's hopes of avenging the 0-2 defeat in the first-leg were dashed as Roy Krishna, David Williams and Javi Hernandez powered ATKMB to a 3-1 win. SCEB's only goal in the game was an own-goal by Tiri in the 41st minute. For the second time this season, SCEB failed to register a single shot on target.
Playing their nineteenth match and final 'home' fixture on February 23, SCEB suffered a 1-2 loss to NorthEast United FC in their second-leg encounter at the Fatorda Stadium. NEUFC got on the scoresheet through VP Suhair and Sarthak Golui's own-goal, while Golui pulled one back for SCEB to become their first Indian scorer in the tournament. Bikash Jairu and Jeje Lalpekhlua made their 50th and 75th ISL appearances in this match respectively.
The season ended with a 5-6 defeat against Odisha FC at the GMC Stadium, Bambolim on February 27. Pilkington, Aaron Amadi-Holloway (2) and Jeje struck goals for SCEB, while Lalhrezuala, Paul Ramfangzuava (2), Jerry Mawihmingthanga (2) and Diego Mauricio got on the scoresheet for OFC. SCEB's other goal was an own-goal by OFC goalkeeper Ravi Kumar. Fowler was back on the touchline for this fixture.
KEY STATISTICS ACCORDING TO THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF THE HERO ISL
Club Stats: 22 goals, 3 clean sheets, 221 crosses, 8,193 passes, 64 saves, 588 tackles, 10,773 touches
Top-Rated Players (Minimum 10 Matches Played)
1. Bright Enobakhare 7.52
Matches: 12, Minutes: 936, Goals: 3, Assists: 1, Passes: 495, Touches: 554, Passing Accuracy: 65.05%, Shots: 16, Crosses: 16, Tackles: 24, Interceptions: 4, Clearances: 0, Blocks: 3
2. Matti Steinmann 7.5
Matches: 17, Minutes: 1,443, Goals: 4, Assists: 3, Passes: 724, Touches: 866, Passing Accuracy: 74.44%, Shots: 15, Crosses: 4, Tackles: 53, Interceptions: 23, Clearances: 20, Blocks: 13
3. Scott Neville 7.24
Matches: 16, Minutes: 1,440, Goals: 1, Assists: 0, Passes: 773, Touches: 974, Passing Accuracy: 80.2%, Shots: 7, Crosses: 7, Tackles: 50, Interceptions: 25, Clearances: 61, Blocks: 24
4. Jacques Maghoma 7.18
Matches: 19, Minutes: 1,557, Goals: 3, Assists: 1, Passes: 825, Touches: 963, Passing Accuracy: 72.84%, Shots: 17, Crosses: 17, Tackles: 52, Interceptions: 27, Clearances: 6, Blocks: 18
5. Anthony Pilkington 7.02
Matches: 17, Minutes: 1,372, Goals: 3, Assists: 3, Passes: 551, Touches: 700, Passing Accuracy: 63.88%, Shots: 53, Crosses: 20, Tackles: 38, Interceptions: 8, Clearances: 4, Blocks: 12