EAST BENGAL FC
Al Kuwait SC Stadium
Kaifan, Kuwait City, Kuwait
First of October will mark a very special date in Indian football. East Bengal is all geared up to lock horns with the mighty Kuwait SC in the semi finals of the AFC Cup. Both the teams have showcased classy and tactically sound performances so far and now a slot in the final beckons. Let’s look at both the teams and preview this huge match for both the set of fans.
Kuwait SC (Kuwait):
Rampaging Kuwait Sporting Club booked a semi final spot after a mammoth 12-2 aggregate victory over New Radiant Club of Maldives. The Brigadiers- the name famous among their faithful, has won the Kuwaiti Premier League 11 times and are defending champions. The club is the third most successful club in Kuwait and were the first club from the Kuwait to win a continental trophy- the AFC Cup.
Albeit the club has also participated in the AFC Champions League, the AFC Cup seems to be one of the favourite for the club from Kuwait. The Brigadiers have at least reached the quarter finals stage four times in the last five years, going the full stretch two times. With a phenomenal record against Indian sides (Played: 5, Won: 4, Draw: 1, Loss: 0), Kuwait SC are hot favourites as they gear up for the visiting East Bengal.
The team has been doing well under the watchful eyes of Romanian Marin Ion, who took the helm last year, guiding the team to win the domestic title as well as the AFC Cup. With a perfect start to the Kuwaiti Premier league this time too, the Brigadiers notched up another win in the league, just before this vital clash.
Al Kuwait SC is expected to start with their seven Kuwaiti players once again with Al-Kanderi in goal. Kuwait international Hakem is expected to partner Tunisia international Baba at the back. Both of them have demoed amazing performances for the club, letting in only 3 goals in their last three AFC Cup games. Al Ateeki would be overlapping on the left flank with Hammami and Al Sanea would be reciprocating the same on the right flank with Waleed. Another Kuwait international Al Shereedah would be anchoring the midfield, sitting in front of the stoppers.
Shifting the microscope to the striking trinity up front. Al Buraiki would be playing in hole behind the two lethal strikers – Brazilian Rogerinho and Tunisian Isaam Jemma. These three players will form the tip of a typical diamond formation.
East Bengal FC (India):
East Bengal has played 9 games in the AFC Cup so far with 6 victories and 3 draws. Undefeated in the AFC Cup so far, Marcos Falopa’s lads added new pages to the history books as the Red-&-Gold brigade became only the second Indian side to book a place in the coveted AFC Cup semi finals. East Bengal rallied to get the better of Indonesia’s Semen Padang over the two legs to advance to their first semi final.
Now the task gets even tougher for the Kolkata side as Kuwait Sporting Club stands between East Bengal and the place where no Indian club has reached- Final of a continental competition. The wonderful work done by Trevor Morgan with the team is now reaping good benefits as Brazilian Coach Marcos Falopa started from where he left. With a lot of pundits applauding Falopa’s tactics over both the legs, especially in the away leg in Padang, all eyes would be on East Bengal’s team sheet in the Kuwait city coming Tuesday. East Bengal is travelling with a 19 member squad:
Travelling Squad – Gurpreet Sandhu, Abhijit Mondal, Naoba Singh, Arnab Mondal, Uga, Saumik Dey, Gurwinder Singh, Robert L, Mehtab, Joachim, R.Vashum, Baljit, Harmanjot Khabra, Alvito, Cavin Lobo, Malswam, Dika Ralte, Chidi Edeh, James Moga.
Summer recruit from Dempo, Ryuji Sueoka has been ruled out from both the legs due to hamstring injury he sustained in Padang.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu has put in good performances in both the legs, apart from a horrendous mistake which let Semen Padang take the lead at home. But Gurpreet came out and said that the whole team was behind him and he went on to make some crucial saves under the bar. He is expected to start under the bar again with Uga marshalling the defence. India international Arnab Mondal will be accompanying him at the back deployed as the second stopper. Saumik Dey has been more than exceptional and his starting place is confirmed at the left back position. Naoba is expected to be deployed at the right back again, overlapping with either Vashum or Abranches. Abranches is the more likely to start in Kuwait city. Captain Mehtab Hossain will lead and orchestrate the attacks alongside Cavin Lobo. Although the club vice Captain Hamanjot Khabra has travelled with the squad, but the Punjab lad has had no match day experience, which could keep him out from the starting eleven. Ralte would take his preferred left flank peppering balls into the dangerous eight yard box.
Chidi Edeh and James Moga are expected to start on Tuesday with both of them looking to get the all important away goal in Kuwait. James Moga headed in the equaliser as he towered over the defender to slot the ball. Moga’s physical presence could be of real help at the top with balls floated in from the flanks. Apart from Chidi and Moga, Falopa has former JCT striker among his ranks as well. Baljit Singh could be used off the bench to introduce the spark in the attacking third.
All the pressure would be on the hosts to perform, albeit the crowd at the Al Kuwait SC stadium is nothing more than dismal. Kuwait SC would be hoping to get a substantial lead at home and virtually kill the tie itself. East Bengal on the other hand would be hoping to score some very important away goals and somehow keep the match alive for the second leg back in YBK, where the crowd will surely turn up in large numbers.
Players To Watch For:
The Tunisia international Issam Jemma, has plyed his trade in France for Lens, where the forward capped 114 performances. He moved to Kuwait in 2012 and flaunts a tremendous record of scoring more than his appearances for the club. He is the highest scorer in Tunisian football history at a very young age. In the last match against New Radiant, Issam scored a quick hattrick at home. Issam would be the man to mark for Uga and Arnab at the back, if East Bengal needs to entertain any thoughts of clinching the tie over both the legs.
The Nigerian has bagged six goals in the competition including a hattrick against Yangon United in the pre-quarter finals. Chidi is a smart mover on the pitch and his physicality coupled with that of Moga upfront could be something which could unsettle the Kuwaiti defence.
Kuwait SC 2-1 East Bengal FC
The hosts are in exceptional from and their rout of an above average New Radiant side in the last round attests the aforementioned fact. On paper, the home side has more quality on the pitch, but that doesn’t guarantee success. East Bengal would be well prepared for the initial onslaught, and if the Red-&-Gold brigade can resist that without substantial damage, then the tie could really open up for the Kolkata side. It could turn out to be a slender lead for the hosts to defend at YBK as they pack their bags for Kolkata after a fortnight