Panaji, Nov 30: SC East Bengal will look to register their first point in the Hero Indian Super League when they take on Mumbai City FC at the GMC Stadium, Bambolim on Tuesday.
This will be the first away game for the Red-and-Golds this season, after they lost their opening fixture 0-2 to ATK Mohun Bagan FC at Tilak Maidan, Vasco on Friday. Mumbai, on the other hand, will go into the contest with 3 points in their bank, having lost and won each of their previous two games against NorthEast United FC and FC Goa respectively.
Despite arriving in Goa late and getting barely over two weeks for their pre-season training, SC East Bengal looked promising in the Kolkata derby, as they created a series of chances in both halves that couldn't be converted owing to lack of proper finishing. They dominated possession throughout the game, and maintained a pass accuracy of 78% in the first half, with midfielders Anthony Pilkington, Jacques Maghoma and Matti Steinmann shouldering majority of the workload. Among the Indians, youngsters Surchandra Singh and Loken Meitei looked impressive, while goalkeeper Debjit Majumder justified his selection by pulling off a couple of brilliant saves.
The MCFC side, managed by Sergio Lobera, comprises many players from the FC Goa squad that finished as table toppers and won the Hero ISL League Winner’s Shield last season. The likes of Hugo Boumous, Ahmed Jahouh, Mourtada Fall and Mandar Rao Desai have followed Lobera from Goa to Mumbai and thereby offer the Spaniard a familiar core.
Following a 0-1 defeat against NEUFC in their first game, the Islanders snapped up a victory in their second fixture against FC Goa, courtesy a late penalty from Adam Le Fondre in the stoppage time. Ahmed Jahouh, who missed the second game after receiving a red card in the first, will be available for selection against SCEB.
SC East Bengal head coach Robbie Fowler feels that there are a few positive takeaways from the defeat against ATKMB FC. ‘The last game was disappointing, but I think we can take a few positives from it, considering the fact that we are a new team. I think we saw a few glimpses of what we can do, and it wasn’t a bad performance against last year’s champions’, Fowler said at the virtual pre-match Press conference held on Monday.
What is the former Liverpool striker’s assessment of their opponents in the next game? ‘They [Mumbai] are a good team, managed by a very talented manager. They’ve a lot of players from the Goa side that topped the league last season and played great football. We have to respect them, but at the same time do what’s necessary to stop them. We are ready for it’, Fowler said.
He also iterated the importance of cohesion within the team. ‘Sometimes the Indians may have bad days, sometimes the same can happen with foreigners. But we all need to stick together. That’s what the game is all about’, the forty-five-year-old added before signing off.