Yuva Bharati Krirangan, Kolkata 16.00IST, 22nd October 2013
East Bengal host Kuwait SC in the second leg of the AFC Cup 2013 semi-final in one of the biggest matches in Indian Football in recent times. A late flourish in the first leg saw East Bengal score two crucial goals in the second half after having going down 4-0. The match ended 4-2 in favor of Kuwait SC but the two away goals by East Bengal means that the tie is far from over and the defending AFC Cup champions Kuwait SC will not be taking the Kolkata giants easily, especially in their own dean.
Team News And Tactical Brief
The Lal-Hould brigade will come out all guns firing in this match and while their main goal will be to score goals, they will also be target not to concede a goal as that would make things very tough for them. East Bengal however come into this match after a demoralizing 3-1 loss to Dempo at home in a match where central defender Uga Okpara was red-carded and Chidi Edeh missed a penalty.
After making crucial errors against Semen Padang in the second leg and against Kuwait SC in the first leg, young goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu is expected to be dropped in favor of the more experienced Abhijit Mondal. The defense will be marshaled by Nigerian Uga Okpara along with Arnab Mondal and the duo will be entrusted with the task of keeping Tunisian forward Issam Jemaa, who is the highest goal scorer for Tunisia and Brazilian striker Rogerinho under the check. Jemma scored two goals in the first leg and keeping him under the check would be one of the primary aims of the Kolkata side. Saumik Dey and Naoba Singh as expected are likely to occupy the left and the right flanks and would be given the freedom to move ahead in search of goals.
Skipper Mehtab Hossain will lead the midfield. With Naoba and Saumik likely to move ahead in search of goals, Mehtab will have to drop down deep to help his defense. Lalrandika Ralte who was hugely impressive in the first leg after coming on a substitute, will be the main source of creativity in East Bengal’s midfield and will look to trouble the Kuwait side with his crosses from the left. Cavin Lobo will take his place on the opposite right flank. Lobo has slowly cemented his place on the right flank and had an impressive outing in the first leg. Joaquim Abranches looks set to start in an attacking role behind the two strikers and Abranches’ versatility will come in handy should Falopa decide to switch to a 4-3-3 formation during the match.
Upfront it will be the duo of Nigerian Chidi Edeh and South Sudanese James Moga who will start for East-Bengal and they will have to play their best match of the season if East Bengal want to qualify for the semi-finals. Moga and Chidi looked out of sorts in the match against Dempo and the African duo will look to make trouble the opposition with their physical strength and aerial prowess, specially from the set-pieces. East Bengal will look to make inroads from the flanks as the Kuwaiti side was found wanting on both the flanks in the second half of the first leg.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Abhijit Mondal, Naoba Singh, Uga Okpara, Arnab Mondal, Saumik Dey; Cavin Lobo, Mehtab Hossain, Joaquim Abranches, Lalrindike Ralte; Edeh Chidi, James Moga.
The defending champions drew flak from their Romanian coach Marin Ion for letting their foot off the pedal and allowing East Bengal to come back into the game with two goals in the second half. Unlike their opponents, Kuwait SC come into the match in a rich vein of form having won both their Kuwaiti League matches that happened after the first leg with Jemma, Rogerinho and Waleed Ali Jumah among the goals.
Musab Al Kanderi is expected to start under the bar for the visitors and the Kuwaiti goalkeeper would be gunning to dish out a better performance after he was criticized for letting in the second goal at his near post. Experienced Bahrain defender Hussain Ali Baba who has represented Bahrain 71 times will lead the defense and the onus will be on him to keep the likes of Chidi and Moga under check. Hussain Hakem is expected to give him company in the heart of the defense. Skipper Jarah Al Ateeqi is expected to start at left back position while Kuwait international Yaqoub Al Taher is all set to return to the side after the missing the first leg due to a suspension. He will replace right back Al Sanea who looked shaky against Ralte in the first leg. Taher ‘ s return will no doubt boost the visitor’s defense.
26 year old Kuwait international Abdullah Al Buraiki is the main source of creativity in the team and he is expected to start behind the two strikers in a free moving role. Having already scored 4 goals in the tournament, the play maker will look to add to his tally. Tunisian international Chedi Hammami who scored the fourth goal in the first leg along with Waleed Ali Jumah who scored the third operate on the two flanks and the duo will be looking to trouble East Bengal with their fluid movement and swift change of flanks. Shereedah Al Shereedah is the defensive midfielder in the team and will sit ahead of the back four and will be deputized with the task of breaking down the East Bengal attacks.
Jemma, the top scorer of the tournament and the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations top scorer is arguably the most high profile player in the match and is definitely a couple of notches above other players. The Kuwaiti club will be looking to him to score an early goal or two and put the game beyond the hosts. He will be supported upfront by Brazilian Rogerinho who is into his sixth season with the club and will be looking to add to his tally of five goals in the tournament. Despite being over shadowed by Jemma, Rogerinho remains an integral member in the Kuwaiti side.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Musab Alkandari; Al Taher, Hussain Ali Baba, Hussain Hakem, Jarah Al Ateeqi; Shereedah Al Shereedah, Waleed Ali, Chadi Hammami, Abdullah Al Buraiki; Rogerinho, Issam Jemaa.
Players To Watch Out For
Mehtab Hossain ( East Bengal)
East Bengal skipper will have a crucial role to play if his side have to qualify for the finals of the AFC Cup. With Falopa likely to start with an attack oriented formations which will see Naoba Singh and Saumik Dey overlap in search of goals, Mehtab will have to drop deep to help Arnab Mondal and Uga Okpara in the defense. He will be entrusted with the task of breaking down Kuwait SC’ s play and restrict the freedom of Abdullah Al Buraiki and Chadi Hammami. Mehtab’ s battle with Al Buraiki and Hammami could very well decide the course of this game.
Issam Jemaa ( Kuwait SC)
The all time Tunisian top scorer is the most potent weapon in the Kuwait SC lineup and is also the leading goal scorer in AFC Cup 2013 with 15 goals to his name. Having plied his trade for Lens in France , Jemaa was on the score sheet twice in the first leg and the ease with which he tormented the East Bengal defense with his trickery was baffling. The Tunisian will look to score early in the game to put the game to bed and his battle with Arnab Mondal and Uga Okpara will be one of the defining moments of the match.
East Bengal 2-1 Kuwait SC ( Kuwait SC to go through to finals 5-3 on aggregate)
Kuwait SC maybe the strongest of the four teams left in the competition but they will certainly find the going tough in what is expected to be a packed Salt-Lake stadium. Bouyed on by their fans, Kolkata giants are expected to win the match but Kuwait SC will score an away goal to go through to the finals. TheHardTackle predicts East Bengal to win the match 2-1 but Kuwait SC to go through to the final.
Blast From The Past
Here are goals from the first leg of the semifinal