Yuvabharati Krirangan, Salt Lake, Kolkata
September 26, 2011 – 18:00 Hrs IST
A Kolkata Derby awaits the football crazy local crowd in the second semi final of 2011 Federation Cup. Pre-tournament favorites and defending Champions Kingfisher East Bengal will lock horns against city-rivals Prayag United SC in a bid to secure a hat-trick of Federation Cup wins.
Road to the Semi Finals
Pitted alongside Goan Giants Dempo Sports Club and the brave-hearts from Pune, Pune FC, Group-C was considered as the “Group of Death”, which also featured East Bengal’s city rivals Mohammedan Sporting Club. East Bengal got off to a rather stuttering start managing to draw their opening encounter against Mohammedan SC, thanks to a superb second half equalizer by skipper Sanju Pradhan. However, the defending Champions were back in contention on match-day 2 getting the better of Red Lizards from Pune by a 2-1 margin. Newly recruited Scottish striker Alan Gow’s first half goal was canceled out by Jeje Lalpekhlua early in to the second half, but the talented Robin Singh’s winner in the 83rd minute let East Bengal earn all three points.
With the final group league encounter against Dempo SC being a virtual quarter-final clash, the Red-&-Gold brigade delivered where it mattered most. Playing an effective brand of football, if not eye-catching, East Bengal dumped Dempo by a solitary goal margin to book their semi final slot. Once again, it was Robin Singh to the rescue of the Red-&-Golds, who did well to keep his composure and finish off a perfect move created by Tolgay Ozbey from the right wing.
Prayag United SC:
The newly re-branded Prayag United SC found themselves in the relatively easy Group-D alongside Chirag United Kerala, Sporting Club de Goa and the Mumbai based institutional outfit Air India FC. Riding on a goal by Brazilian striker Joshimar, Prayag earned all three points from their opening fixture against Chirag United Kerala. However their campaign was almost derailed in the penultimate match when minnows Air India managed to snatch off a point from the Kolkata based side in a goal-less draw.
Sanjay Sen’s boys had their tasks cut out against the group leaders Sporting Club de Goa in their final match as only a win could propel them to the last four stage. Prayag United responded brilliantly to the challenge and registered an impressive 2-1 win over their Goan counterparts to ensure their passage to the semi final.
Team News and Tactical Brief
All is not well in the Red-&-Gold camp ahead of this big semi final clash. Robin Singh will be serving his suspension in this match after getting himself booked for a silly foul against Dempo SC. However the bigger blow for the Kolkata giants would be Mehtab Hussain’s groin injury – if the “Double Cylinder” fails to recover ahead of the game, it will be a huge mental shock for the Hilsa brigade – just for the record, East Bengal never managed to beat United SC in any competition in last three years whenever Mehtab was unavailable.
Usually Morgan deploys a 4-1-3-2 starting line-up, but Mehtab’s unavailability could potentially change the whole system. It is an open secret that there is no proper replacement for Mehtab and presently there is no other player in the whole country who can play the dual role of a defensive screen along with that of a play-maker.
Morgan will like to go in with the tried and tested eleven with Sandip Nandy manning the custody and Uga Okpara-Raju Gaekwad combo at the central defense. Naoba Singh is expected to get the nod to start on the right back slot, with Soumik Dey complementing him on the left side of pitch.
In midfield Mehtab Hussain, if fit, will ply his trade as the deep-lying play-maker. Captain Sanju Pradhan will be the preferred right winger and Harmanjot Singh Khabra will keep his left wing slot in the starting line-up. Penn Orji is expected to play in the attacking mid-fielder’s role, just behind the two strikers. However Robin Singh’s suspension has put Penn’s position in the starting eleven under cloud cover. If Morgan decides to go in with an all foreign strike partnership of Tolgay Ozbey and Alan Gow, then Penn will have to warm the substitutes’ benches because of the three foreigner role. Vasum will be drafted in on the right wing with Sanju Pradhan playing the role of an attacking midfielder.
If Mehtab fails to recover in time, Morgan will line-up his team in a 4-4-2 formation – with Penn and Khemtang Paite forming the midfield partnership. In that scenario, either Tolgay or Gow will have to sit-out and Baljit Singh will make his way in to the starting line-up. The rest of the team will remain unchanged.
Expected Starting Line-up: 4-1-3-2: Sandip, Naoba, Okpara, Raju, Soumik, Mehtab, Khabra, Vasum, Sanju, Tolgay, Gow.
Prayag United SC
Unlike his counter-part Trevor James Morgan, Sanjay Sen has a fully fit squad at his disposal. There was slight niggling injury scare to their Brazilian striker Joshimar, but thankfully for the United SC supporters, he has regained his fitness and is expected to feature in the starting line-up.
Sanjay Sen is expected to line-up his team in a 4-4-2 formation. Under the goal-bar, Prayag will have the services of four times I-League Champion and former Dempo SC custodian Abhijit Mondal. Defender Sukhen Dey is nursing an injury and hence the back-four will consist of veteran Deepak Mondal, Bello Rassaq, Arnab Mondal and Justin Stephen. Captain Lalkamal Bhowmick and Denson Devadas are the preferred choices to marshal the midfield department with Malswam Tulunga and Gouranga Dutta helping them to spread the game wide on the wings. Talented James Lukram Singh can also be used as a substitute if required.
It will be an all foreign attacking line-up for Prayag United where Joshimar da Silva Martins will be partnered by veteran Ghanaian and former East Bengal striker Yusif Yakubu. Kayne Vincent will be used as a second half substitute if the first choice strike combo fails to provide the desired break-throughs.
Expected Starting Line-up: 4-4-2: Abhijit, Deepak, Arnab, Rassaq, Justin, Denson, Lalkamal, Tulunga, Gouranga, Joshimar, Yakubu.
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For:
Alan Gow (East Bengal)
After producing a man of the match performance in his first start on Indian soil against Pune FC, the Scottish striker is already a star among the Red-&-Gold faithful. His skills, especially his one touch passing and excellent dead-ball prowess make him to stand apart from the masses. He has a sublime left-footer and Prayag United will be wary of conceding any free-kicks in the region of 20-25 yards out from their goal – as Alan Gow could prove to be lethal with his inch-perfect curling deliveries from that range. Watch out for the former Blackpool striker – he has it in him to become the next superstar of Indian football.
East Bengal 2-0 Prayag United SC