Panaji, Dec 25: SC East Bengal would look to end the year on a high and bag their elusive win when they host Chennaiyin FC in their seventh Hero Indian Super League fixture at Tilak Maidan, Vasco on Saturday.
Having lost four and drawn one of their first five games, the Red-and-Golds were almost on the brink of their maiden Hero ISL victory in their last outing against Kerala Blasters FC at the GMC Stadium, Bambolim as they led by a goal till two minutes before the final whistle was blown.
However, a stoppage-time equaliser by Jeakson Singh meant that the game ended 1-1 and SCEB went back with just one point. They are currently placed at the bottom of the points table with 2 points from six games.
Reflecting on that result at the virtual pre-match Press conference on Friday, SC East Bengal Head Coach Robbie Fowler said, ‘As a manager, I’m always worried about conceding goals. It’s not nice conceding goals at the last minute. We had a lot of chances to win convincingly, but if we show the same desire and attitude in the upcoming games, I’m sure we’ll win a lot more points. Our lads played really well in the last game, but football is full of ups and down. The morale of the team is high.’
The statistics aren’t a true indicator of SCEB’s overall performance though. They’ve created plenty of chances with the midfield trio of Anthony Pilkington, Jacques Maghoma, and Matti Steinmann shouldering a majority of the workload. In fact, these three players are the top-ranked players of the club so far (minimum 3 games played) with individual ratings of 7.33 (Maghoma), 7.12 (Steinmann), and 7.12 (Pilkington), according to the official website of the Hero ISL.
SCEB can take a lot of positives from their last performance as they dominated the action right from the start and had multiple scoring opportunities.
Captain Danny Fox was back in the XI after a three-match injury layoff and added solidity to the backline with his leadership skills and wealth of experience.
The Indian players, too, deserve the plaudits for stepping up and putting up spirited performances in the last game. Debjit Majumder, as usual, was vigilant between the sticks and pulled off a couple of brilliant saves to prevent KBFC from adding more goals to their tally.
Md. Rafique was instrumental in creating most of his team’s chances in the final third, including the goal that was mistakenly netted by KBFC defender Bakary Kone as he tried to clear a square ball meant for Pilkington inside his own box.
Debutant Haobam Tomba Singh, the youngest starter in the Hero ISL, showed a lot of promise with his mobility, while Surchandra Singh and Bikash Jairu played their respective roles efficiently.
Last season’s runners up and two-time Hero ISL champions Chennaiyin FC, meanwhile, are fresh from their 2-1 win over FC Goa in their previous game and currently stand eighth on the points table with 8 points from six games (two wins, two losses, and two draws).
Midfielder Rafael Crivellaro, who was their standout performer last season, produced a match-winning effort with one goal and one assist against FC Goa after failing to emulate his past success in the first four matches.
Young Indian players like goalkeeper Vishal Kaith , midfielders Lallianzuala Chhangte, Anirudh Thapa and Rahim Ali, and defenders Jerry Lalrinzuala and Deepak Tangri have shown a lot of promise for the Marina Machans, while their Slovakian forward Jakub Sylvestr has had a capricious season so far with just a solitary goal from six matches.
Like SCEB, lack of conversion in the final third has been a concern for Chennaiyin FC as well. In their last game, they should’ve finished with more goals, but Chhangte alone missed three opportunities.
What is Fowler’s assessment of this Chennaiyin FC side? ‘Their manager (Csaba Laszlo) is someone whom I’ve looked up to. He’s got a solid team with great players at his disposal. Our job will be to stop their excellent players, which is going to be difficult. They’ve been a very consistent team over the years, but we’ll go out there believing that we can win,’ the 45-year-old said.
Fowler also had a message for the SC East Bengal fans on the occasion of Christmas. ‘It’s a wonderful day. From me, my team, and my entire family, I wish you all a Merry Christmas!’ he added before signing off.