AFC Cup Preview: East Bengal Aim To Keep The Tricolor Flying High




Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata

10th March, 2010 – 3:00 PM IST

Federation Cup champions Kingfisher East Bengal hosts Syrian Premier League 2009 Runners up Al Ittihad at the Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday in an AFC Cup Group D encounter. This is the first group league match for both the teams in Group-D, a group which also features Lebanese Premier League champions Al-Nejmeh and Kuwaiti National League champions Al-Qadsia.

The opening fixture in Group-D between Al-Nejmeh and Al-Qadsia ended in a goalless draw. Therefore both East Bengal and Al-Ittihad would look to get a morale boosting result in their favor to go top of the table, at least for the time being.

East Bengal Club Home Ground : Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata

Form Guide:

The Kolkata giant has been thoroughly unpredictable in this season. While they suffered a humiliating 5-3 derby defeat against arch-rivals Mohun Bagan and lost quite a few matches against lowly opponents, they also have produced some brilliant attacking football against some top clubs and also clinched the Federation Cup trophy remaining unbeaten all the way through.

Even though they went down against Lajong FC in their most recent I-League encounter, there is no guarantee that the same team will not come out all guns blazing against Al-Ittihad in this crucial tie, where the pride of the nation is also at-stake. The return of the deadly striking combo, Baichung-Yakubu, will enhance the confidence of Red & Gold brigade, who were in serious injury crisis over the last couple of weeks. Coach Philippe de Ridder would also be relying heavily on playmaker Mehtab Hussain and Alvito D’Cunha for keeping the supply line active for the high profile strikers. Ghanaian Abel Hammond and Sanju Pradhan are also match-fit and expected to get a start at the wings. Back four will remain unchanged with Nirmal and Nabi at the wing back and Okpara-Mehraj duo at the center of the defense. In all probability, Abhra Mondal will get the nod to guard the custody for East Bengal.

Form Guide: DLLLWD

For the six times winners of the Syrian League — Al-Ittihad — the season 2009-10 has been a rather dismal one so far. After the sixteenth round, they are languishing at the tenth position in their national league standings. But they are determined to make a mark in the AFC Cup in their debut appearance. To give themselves a fair time to acclimatize with the weather and the artificial turf of Salt Lake ground, Al-Ittihad landed at Kolkata on 6th March, four days ahead of  kick-off.

As far as the star attraction goes, they have got as many as six players from the Syrian national team and Otobong Ene Edet, the Cameroon playmaker, is their lone foreigner. Striker Abdul Fattah Al Agha, who featured in the recent Nehru Cup and scored the winning goal against India in the group stages, is their prime hope.  Second striker Omar Hemidi is in great form off-late and currently is the 3rd top scorer in this year’s Syrian league.

TheHardTackle’s PREDICTION
Kingfisher East Bengal 1 – 1 Al-Ittihad

It is unlikely that the game will be an open encounter, as both the teams are completely unknown to each other. The strategy for both the teams would be to go into the match with a strong defensive line-up. They would like to take time to judge the opponent in the first half an hour and then go for attacking. The priority would be not to concede any early goals. Given their current pathetic run in the domestic league, both the coaches will be happy to share a point each from their opening AFC Cup clash.

It also depends a lot on the avatar in which the East Bengal team turns out on match day. They are the most successful Indian team against foreign clubs and on their day, they can tear apart any defense with the quality they possess at their disposal.

Baichung Bhutia, Yusif Yakubu [EAST BENGAL]
Abdul Fattah Al Agha, Otobong [AL-ITTIHAD]

  • MBFan

    Nice preview of the game but the prediction looks bit biased towards East Bengal…
    EB would be ecstatis to keep the margin of defeat to 3 goals… 😛

    And Baichung is finished… he passed his expiry date by 2 years… 😀

  • Biplab

    I can understand… a typical case of “sour grapes” for all the MBFans… U tried for Baichung, we snatched him; u tried for AFC Cup, we snatched that too… poor fella… 😀

    Forza East Bengal…

  • Biplab

    BTW, will the match be telecasted live???

  • Bengali 24X7 news channel “24 Ghanta” is telecasting the match live.

  • Biplab

    Ok… thanks Deb… but I do not have feeds to “24 Ghanta” here in Bangalore :( Have to rely on live web commentary…

    Less than 30 mins to go now… and hell, I m excited… :)

    all d best to Baichung and co. EB, the pride of nation.

    Joy Laal-Holud!!!

  • MBFan

    GOOAAALLL… Al-Ittihad scores one as early as 7th min…

    EB fans, start counting… 😛

  • MBFan

    Al Ittihad scored their 2nd… where hav the EB fan gone??? Pride of nation… LOLzzz 😛

  • Biplab

    Sad to see that rather than rooting for a fellow country club, people are hell bent upon trying to make a mockery of the city rivalry!!!

    But nothing better is expected from MB Fans… we all know the extent to which they can stoop low. Reminds me of one famous saying, “When you fight with a pig you both get dirty – but the pig enjoys it”. ENJOY 😀

    We will come back strong!!! Still 50 more mins to go…
    Come on East Bengal.

  • MBFan

    Looks like I have offended someone… But I M LOVING IT :)


  • Kripky

    Relaxx…We shud be proud of East Bengal, even if they lose 5-0, we shud be proud of ’em. Can smbdy get me some beer and a bowl of strawberries? I need to relax and count the number of goals Barreto and Chidi score everytime they play now! 😉

  • Somnath

    1-4, expected.