The Semi Final return leg for East Bengal in the AFC Cup is over. Next, what can be done about the result? Sit and cry? Stand up and take note of the things to be learnt?
Well certainly there are a host of shortcomings that needs to be plugged but for that, this article would be too less a space. Yes, it may sound unbelievable to someone who was not a witness to the toying of Indian football at the hands of the West Asian giants, namely Al Kuwait SC but that is the very true.
After having lost the away game 4-2, it was thought that the Red and Gold brigade had quite a good chance of making it to the final. All they had to do was keep a clean sheet and pump in two goals in their home match. However that was the only thing that could not be done at all and East Bengal was packed out of the AFC Cup thoroughly.
The match started with a lot of positive vibes floating around the stadium and the capacity crowd was making times difficult for the visiting side. However as the game unfolded it got difficult to decide whose home it was. Al Kuwait players were playing with panache and scoring goals whenever they wanted. Plethora of chances were created and the played with a style which was aplomb. The home team players were left hapless most part of the game. The commentators of the broadcasting channel, laughing away at the condition of the ground and the miserable state of the home team. Red cards were flashed twice and it is indeed a sorry state for the Al Kuwait player who missed out on the chance to play a cup final.
The lack of quality was evident and it was a known fact. What could have sealed that gap was the pace and vigour of the East Bengal lads, eager to score a goal or two. That was missing completely. They lacked stamina, pace and most importantly the intent to move forward and build the game was nowhere to be seen. For the home fan it was heart wrenching to see the mauling by one Brazilian forward of the away team.
Among the Bashirs, Wahids and the other few, one Coutinho, the number 10 of Al Kuwait was a striking difference. He played in a manner that almost made him an Usain Bolt among the rest present on the field. He was way ahead even before the defenders could mark him. With the flick of an eye he was off and Arnab Mandal paid the price with a straight red for unfairly pulling him down to stop his indomitable run with the ball towards the goal.
The way the first goal was scored millions of hopes had been dead by that time. Coutinho was off and running cutting in between the midfield and defence of East Bengal and nobody could catch him. In the end he calmly netted the first goal for his team and almost killing the hopes of an Indian club advancing towards the final of AFC Cup.
The lack of zeal was the most unfortunate incident that could be seen from the east Bengal players. They were just not displaying the intention to move forward ti score a goal. The ground was horrendous but the only player who made it look like his home turf was the number 10 of the away team. He dodged past defenders and made a complete fool of the home team who were left clueless.
The weather was sultry, the players were tiring and the fans had lost hopes of any good news. However the first half red card to the second goal scorer of Al Kuwait SC had left some flickers alive. As the second half play progressed those died down immediately and the crowd were left hooting for the away team who were displaying exhibition stuff football. Flamboyant style and touch; it seemed towards the end that it was their home soil and they made it count to the optimal level.
Lessons what could be learnt are many. Let us not even go there. The disappointing fact is that Indian football standards are far below the standards of other Asian teams. Marcos Falopa, the Brazilian coach can be criticised by the fans, but after watching the game let us not question him. The opponents were far better and they deserved every bit of this progress. They have won the Cup last year and have been finalists twice. Thus their progress was well deserved.
Quite funnily, the British commentators of Star Sports questioned the participation of Al Kuwait SC citing their far superior display of football which was not a match for the minnows East Bengal. The commentators were having a gala time at the box as well as it was quite a one sided game. The home team were made to look like toddlers before their Asian counterparts.
All that can be said at the end of harrowing experience at Salt Lake Stadium, is Morgan Sir we miss you. Please come back and instil the spirit, the urge to win that somehow has vanished from this team.
Better luck next time!