Panaji, Dec 19: Two teams with similar fortunes will face each other on Sunday as both SC East Bengal and Kerala Blasters FC look to register their first win in Hero ISL-7 at the GMC Stadium, Bambolim.
This will be SCEB’s sixth fixture and fourth ‘away’ game this season.
After suffering three consecutive defeats right at the start of their maiden Hero ISL campaign (against ATK Mohun Bagan FC, Mumbai City FC, and NorthEast United FC, respectively), the Red-and-Golds put up a spirited fight against Jamshedpur FC to hold them to a 0-0 draw in their fourth game, despite playing with ten men for almost seventy minutes.
However, the team would go into Sunday’s contest having lost their previous game 2-3 against Hyderabad FC despite attacking midfielder Jacques Maghoma netting a brace to end their goal drought.
Speaking about Sunday’s game at the virtual pre-match Press conference on Saturday, SC East Bengal Head Coach Robbie Fowler said, ‘We all need to play better against Kerala Blasters FC and our concentration levels need to be higher. It doesn’t really matter what formation you’re playing with because it can change if a player moves ten yards. We’ve shown that we can compete. Maybe the results didn’t go our way, but we always go out there, believing that we can win.’
Kerala Blasters FC haven’t fared any better either. The Manjappada have managed to win just two points from their five games thus far, having lost three and drawn two. Currently placed ninth on the points table, they stumbled to a 2-4 defeat against Bengaluru FC in their last outing.
In their only pre-season friendly against the same opponents in November, SCEB cruised to a 3-1 victory, courtesy goals from Anthony Pilkington (2) and Yumnam Gopi Singh. Asked if his players can draw inspiration from that game, Fowler replied, ‘Yes, we had a good result against them, but it means nothing in the grand scheme of things. It’s a fresh game for both sides and we both want to win—it’s as simple as that.
‘What happened in the past is irrelevant now. We still have to play well on the day. The players have to recover a little bit better; they need to work hard for each other. We have to work well with the ball and also without it. We’ll go into the game with a fresh mindset.’
For SCEB, midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh is expected to return from his one-match suspension for Sunday’s clash, while KBFC defender Costa Nhamoinesu, who missed the Bengaluru FC game due to a red card in the game before that, is likely to be available, too.
The Red-and-Golds have conceded ten goals so far as defensive lapses continue to hurt them. Fowler attributes it to a lack of concentration at crucial moments. ‘It doesn’t matter what level of football you play, the game is all about concentration. As the coaching staff, we try to do everything in terms of preparation and doing homework on the opposition, but ultimately the players have to get their act right.
'Concentration is a huge thing in football; one defender switches off and before you know, it’s a goal. Even if a player switches off for a split-second, it could be fatal,’ he said.
The two teams have also taken the least number of shots in the ongoing edition of the Hero ISL, with SCEB’s tally accounting for 48 and KBFC’s being 39. On being asked what has been his assessment of his team's performance so far, the Liverpool legend replied, 'Possession-wise, we’ve done okay. Games could’ve swung either way with penalties here and there. We know that we’re getting close to where we want to be.’