Calcutta: Trevor James Morgan was a relieved man on Saturday after Kingfisher East Bengal edged past Pailan Arrows 2-1.
East Bengal might have started the match as overwhelming favourites against Arrows, but they could never dominate the proceedings. On the contrary, it was Arrows' spirited performance, which often frustrated Morgan's men.
So much so that Arrows could have spoiled East Bengal's party as they created numerous opportunities. That Manandeep Singh saw a red card in the 75th minute also helped Arrows' cause. Unfortunately, the profligacy of their strikers hurt their chances.
"We knew it would be a tough game for us… They are really fit and energetic. In fact, they enjoyed better ball possession today and created chances. But our goalkeeper Abhijit Mondal made quite a number of brilliant saves to avert the danger.
"Also when were one man short, it became difficult for us… We had to defend resolutely. They had nothing to lose today so they went for the kill... They came out all guns blazing. But I'm glad that the defenders stood firm," Morgan said at the post-match press conference.
Asked whether he was satisfied with the performance of the team, Morgan said: "At this stage of the I-League, performance takes a back seat… The top priority is to win matches and earn points. Even if my team play badly and earn three points at the end of the day, I will be happy.
"Today, the boys showed great character to stage a comeback. They had the hunger and the desire to win the match. This win will give us the confidence before the February 9 Derby clash."
Morgan, however, downplayed the Manandeep incident when he was asked whether it has come as a big blow to the side. "Players react to scenarios… These sort of incidents happen. Manandeep is still a youngster… I think he has learnt a lesson today. Hopefully, he won't repeat the same mistake," said Morgan.
East Bengal's midfielder Ishfaq Ahmed also shared the coach's view on the issue.
"See Morgan could not field the first XI since Mehtab, Harmanjyot (Khabra), Penn (Orji) and I could have missed the next match had we seen a yellow in this match. Today, we needed to be cautious. At the same time, we were confident of a win. I'm glad the boys did not slip up although Manandeep saw a red card towards the end of the game. It was an unfortunate incident. But he is young and he will attain maturity with experience," said Ishfaq.
East Bengal's another midfielder Mehtab Hussain said the win provides a huge confidence ahead of the Derby.
"This match served as preparation for the Derby. So winning the match was important. The win provides us with a huge confidence booster since Arrows are a very difficult side to beat."
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