East Bengal leapfrogged Bengaluru FC to take the second spot on the I-League table, but their performance over Salgaocar on Sunday at the Barasat stadium left a lot to be desired, in spite of the result being 2-1 in their favour.

Salgaocar looked to be running away with a point at East Bengal’s backyard for large portions of the match, and an 83rd minute header by defender Bello Rasaq was what it took for the Red and Golds to get the win. When asked about the lack of finishing though, coach Biswajit Bhattacharjee chose t take the blame upon himself.

“This is my fault [not finishing chances]. We have not been practicing properly with the finishing aspect of the game. Our emphasis was more on creating chances. But when we had scored four goals [against Shillong Lajong], these questions never popped up,” said Bhattacharjee.

One big concern for the East Bengal fans is that their star player Bernard Mendy has not been performing up to expectetions. However, Bhattacharjee defended Mendy’s performances by saying that the Frenchman is still not fully match fit, which is why he is losing a lot of stamina, especially in the last 10 minutes of the match.

“One problem for us is that Mendy is still not fully fit to play 90 minutes. He did not have much practice after the ISL, and we also signed him on a very short notice,” said Bhattacharjee. “When he’s winning the ball, when he’s passing, when he’s controlling the game, he’s doing it perfectly. Only on the stamina front, he’s lacking a bit in the last 10 minutes. But that will improve slowly.”

Performance dictates team selection

The East Bengal coaching staff have come under a lot of pressure for benching quality players like Cavin Lobo, Do Dong, Harmanjot Khabra and Joachim Abranches. However, Bhattacharjee defended his coaching staff and his own decisions by saying that they pick the starting XI and the substitutes bench based on performance. Dong himself has been unable to replicate his Calcutta Football League form in the I-League this season, and that is why he has been benched.

“I’m not dissatisfied with [Do] Dong. His performance in the practice sessions in the last 10 days has been very good. But he needs to perform well in the matches,” said Bhattacharjee. “We also have th likes of Mama, Robert, and Khabra sitting on the bench, waiting for their chance. There’s a lot of competition. So whoever performs well, we’ll play them.”

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