As the round four of the AFC Cup drew to a conclusion, it was a mixed bag of results for the Indian representation in the annual continental championship. Kingfisher East Bengal overcame the Tampines Rovers challenge for the second time in the week to place one foot in the knockout phase. Churchill Brothers, on the other hand could not garner any points away from home in Singapore yesterday.
East Bengal Leave It Late, but Bag All Three Points at Home:
“We are now favourably placed for qualification and hopefully we can achieve that in our next match,” said East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan. “The heat had a bearing on the pace of the match which was much slower than the pace in Singapore.” – Trevor James Morgan
Trevor Morgan is indeed a very happy man. His side is unbeaten in the Group H, and is currently slotted at the summit with ten points from four games. The Lal-Holud Brigade just needs a single point from their last two games to bag a place in the next round. Nigerian hit man Chidi Edeh, who came on for injured Andrew Barisic , hit the back of the net at Yuba Bharati Krirangan to send the crowd into delirium. This is his second goal of the campaign. The Kolkata side went into the tunnel with a slender lead after a half which was peppered with chances for both the sides. Tampines Rovers coach Nenad Bacina made some shrewd substitutions after the break as Hadzibulic and Mohammad Kamal were thrown into the mix to add teeth to attacks. This paid dividends as Bin Esah scored midway through the second half to restore parity. Both the goalkeepers had their bit to do as the match entered into last five minutes. Just as it looked that both sides would split points, India international Lalrindika Ralte came up with screamer to clinch all three points.
East Bengal were in the second round of the AFC Cup nine years ago, now sits just a single point away from knockout round, East Bengal would be ready to throw the kitchen sink in the I-League with Churchill Brothers widening the gap at the top of the table to five points.
In the other Group H match, Selangor rallied to win against Sai Gon at home, doing themselves a huge favor as now the Malaysian club would have everything to play for in their last two matches.
East Bengal Next Match: 23rd April, Selangor (Malaysia), Away.
Churchill Brothers Continue to Disappoint Away From Goa:
“With the players missing all those chances we had, we had to pay the price” – Subhash Bhowmick
Churchill Brothers, after an emphatic victory in I-League over an ambitious Pune FC side, were all geared up for the Warriors FC challenge. The Red Machines succumbed to a soft defeat away from home at the Jalan Besar Stadium. After all the fiasco related to the visa of Indian captain Sunil Chhetri and Afghan winger Balal, they both joined the squad hours prior to the kick-off. After a nervy first half for both the sides, with the home team clinching the possession- it remained goalless at the Jalan Besar Stadium. Steven Dias and Ashley Fernandes were guilty of fumbling up good opportunities to test the former Singapore custodian Hasan.
Second half had to be delayed due to lightning as no impactful changes were made by both the sides. As quick counter attack brewed from the flank, Ruzaini Zainal fizzed in a cross, looking for Mislav, but was slotted home by the captain of the Goan side, Ravanan. This suddenly opened the floodgates as both the sides made aggressive substitutions to make an impact. Gabonese striker Henri came closest to restore parity, but he took a tad longer to connect to the cross floated in by Balal. Indian Captain Sunil Chettri had a match to forget after the number forty seven opened his account in the I-league past week.
It finished 1-0 in the favor of the home team, registering their first triumph of this edition and thus preserving their chance to qualify from group E. Away game woes continue for the side from Salcette. Churchill Brothers are now placed third in the table with four points from as many games and everything to play for in the I-league. Warriors FC are still rock bottom of the table with three points.
The other match in the group saw Indonesian side Semen Padang clinch a next round slot with a comfortable 3-1 win over Kitchee FC.
Churchill Brothers SC Next Match: 24th April, Kitchee (Indonesia), Home.