Siliguri, West Bengal; September 27, 2012
East Bengal and Churchill Brothers will face off in the first semi-final of Federation Cup 2012 in a clash which promises to be memorable.
Team News and Tactical Brief
There were doubts during transfer window how much impact Churchill Brothers would have in 2012/13 season. Their patrons had lost local elections and rumours were rife that they would lose their most important players. They did end up losing the likes of Gourmangi Singh, Lalrindika Ralte but have surprised observers with their eventual performance in the Federation Cup. The Goan Reds were grouped together with record winners of Fed Cup, Mohun Bagan, freshly crowned Durand Cup winners Air India and plucky Mohammedan Sporting. Churchill Brothers put all pre-tournament speculations to rest by dominating the group as they qualified for the last four after scoring nine goals in three matches and conceding just one.
Subhash Bhowmik squared off against his former club Mohun Bagan in the opening match. There was great anticipation around this match as the Green & Maroons lined up with the much hyped striker pairing of Odafa Okalie and Tolgay Ozbey. The experienced Bhowmik completely trumped his Mohun Bagan counterpart in terms of tactics as Beto took full advantage of rookie Lalrozama Fanai in Mohun Bagan’s left flank. Striker Henry Antchouet came close to scoring thrice between 10th and 26th minutes and Mohun Bagan would be grateful to Arindam Bhattacharya for making sharp saves. Churchill themselves got lucky just before the half time as Jewel Raja’s shot came off the post. The Reds continued their dominance in second half but couldn’t make their ball possession stats count as the match finished in a 0-0 draw.
Churchill Brothers needed a win against Mohammedan SC, another of Bhowmik’s former teams, in the second match and boy, did they do it in style! The decision to start Lebanese hitman Akram Moghrabi changed the game as Akram struck two goals, including the opening goal on 13th minute. Bineesh Balan and Beto struck before half time as Churchill Brothers more or less wrapped up the game in first half. Henry Antchouet rounded up the scoreline on 88th minute as Churchill eventually won 5-1.
A victory against Air India would ensure Churchill Brothers’ progress to last four and they once again dished out a dominant performance. Their three foreigners Akram, Beto and Henry got on the scoresheet once again with Bikramjit Singh scoring another goal on 90th minute to seal the win 4-0.
Churchill Brothers have stayed true to their reputation of signing quality foreigners as the Lebanese duo of Akram Moghrabi and Bilal Najjaraine have found their feet quickly in Indian football. With Beto, Lenny Rodriguez and Bineesh Balan in good form the Goan reds have suddenly emerged as one of the favourites to lift the only big domestic trophy not won by the club till now.
Expected Starting XI: Sandip Nandy; Denzil Franco, Bilal Najjaraine, Thangyam, Ravanan; Beto, Tomba Singh, Lenny Rodriguez, Amandeep; Akram Moghrabi, Bineesh Balan
East Bengal reached their sixth consecutive Federation Cup semi-final but they had to break their sweat to do it. The 2011 runners-up were grouped in a relatively easy group along with Kalighat Milan,Sangha, ONGC and Sporting Clube de Goa. The Red & Golds were coming into Federation Cup in full confidence having swept their opponents away in Calcutta Football League matches.
Playing on a muddy Siliguri turf, East Bengal didn’t look their own self in the first match. Edeh Chidi converted a controversial penalty in opening few minutes of the match as it looked like East Bengal would romp to an easy win over Sporting. It didn’t quite turn out that way. Sporting’s energetic running on the wet and heavy field caused East Bengal problems time and again. Sporting wingers exploited the mud free areas along the touchline to breach East Bengal and were finally rewarded when Victorino Fernandez scored a solo strike to tie the match. The 1-1 draw coupled with ONGC’s 5-1 mauling of Kalighat increased pressure on East Bengal. Their day was made worse by the sending off of Mehtab Hussain.
The Red & Golds were expected to trounce minnows ONGC in the next match but shockingly found themselves behind in first half. Surabuddin Mullick took advantage of a lapse in defence and set up Katumi’s opening goal. East Bengal were rattled by that early goal but soon made their way back into the match slowly and took control of the midfield. Edeh Chidi scored a beautiful free-kick just before half time to draw level. Even India coach Wim Koevermans stood up and applauded Chidi’s goal. East Bengal kept pushing for equalizer in second half and were further helped when ONGC lost goalscorer Katumi to a red card on 78th minute. Trevor James Morgan switched to an ultra-attacking 3-4-3 formation to score the second goal. Morgan’s tactics paid off as substitute Manadeep Singh scored the match winner few minutes before the final whistle.
Few matches in Federation Cup have been more exciting than East Bengal and Kalighat MS’ final group match. East Bengal needed to win but they found themselves down 2-0 by 16th minute as their opponents took advantage of defensive mistakes to score on counter attacks. The central defensive pairing of Raju Gaikwad and Arnab Mandal lacked mutual understanding as James Gbilee and Tanmay Kundu punished East Bengal. The Red & Golds were jolted by Kalighat’s goals but soon clawed their way back as Manandeep Singh scored on 25th minute.
Six minutes later the former Air India striker struck again as East Bengal made it 2-2. As the Red & Golds pushed for a third goal Kalighat once again took advantage of gaps in defence, scoring their third on three minutes before half time. The drama was not over. East Bengal once again leveled the score, this time Edeh Chidi deep into injury time. The teams went into half time with scoreboard reading 3-3, an incredible scene.
The introduction of Uga Okpara shored up East Bengal defence in second half as the Red & Golds looked much more comfortable against Kalighat’s attacks. They opened the opponent goal multiple times but were let down by poor finishing. Chidi once again came to the rescue as another penalty was awarded on 64th minute, making it 4-3. The match ended 4-3 as ONGC’s win over Sporting in other match ensured East Bengal reached last four.
Despite losing Tolgay Ozbey, East Bengal’s attacking line-up has performed admirably so far in both local league and Fed Cup. Edeh Chidi, the man who played a huge part in Salgaocar’s triumph last season has scored in every match so far. Manadeep Singh has also put on his scoring boots. Morgan would however be worried about his defence as East Bengal face off against Churchill Brothers side that has been very impressive offensively till now.
Expected Starting XI: Gurpreet Singh Sandu, Naoba Singh, Raju Gaikwad, Uga Okpara, Soumik Dey, Sanju Pradhan, Penn Orji, Mehtab Hussain, Lalrindiaka Ralte, Chidi Edeh, Manandeep Singh.
East Bengal have trailed in two out of three Fed Cup games; Churchill Brothers are yet to go behind.
Edeh Chidi has scored four goals but all of them have come from set-pieces.
Churchill Brothers are yet to reach a Fed Cup final while East Bengal have reached the final 15 times.
Current Churchill Brothers coach Subhash Bhowmik enjoyed his best times as coach and player in East Bengal.
Players to Watch Out for
Churchill Brothers: Beto, Akram Moghrabi, Bilal Najjaraine
East Bengal: Sanju Pradhan, Mehtab Hussain, Edeh Chidi
East Bengal 2-1 Churchill Brothers
This promises to be a closely fought battle but East Bengal’s experience at this level will make a difference. This Churchill Brothers team is still new to each other but a major portion of the East Bengal squad has played both the finals they have reached under Trevor James Morgan.