AFC Cup: Injury woes for Bagan, Rovers

Having made it to the knock-outs as the topper of the G group in the league stage, Mohun Bagan will be looking to finish off the season with a win. The domestic season turned out to be very successful for the side as it became the I-League runner-up before clinching the Fed Cup crown with an unbeaten record.

Haitian Sony Norde has returned to his country to attend national duty and Mohun Bagan will miss his services in the midfield.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

Mohun Bagan will be counting the injuries from its Federation Cup triumph two days ago, ahead of its Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup pre-quarterfinal match against Tampines Rovers of Singapore at the Indira Gandhi Stadium here on Tuesday.

Having made it to the knock-outs as the topper of the G group in the league stage, Mohun Bagan will be looking to finish off the season with a win. The domestic season turned out to be very successful for the side as it became the I-League runner-up before clinching the Fed Cup crown with an unbeaten record.

“We want to win this game and finish the season in a nice way,” said coach Sanjoy Sen

The coach was also referring to the long break after this round. If Bagan qualifies, it will be playing the next round in the next season. With a good number of players moving into the Indian Super League (ISL), the team management may not have the option of selecting the best side, then.

The host will be missing three of its key players – Haitian Sony Norde and Japanese Katsumi Yusa in the midfield and Pritam Kotal in defence. The first has returned to his country to attend national duty while the other two are injured. Another midfielder Pronoy Halder is also nursing an injured ankle.

“It is not possible to have all the players after a long season. We have to mentally adjust to that and it will be a good challenge for the players who will be replacing them,” Sen said.

Mohun Bagan captain Jeje Lalpekhlua, who has already scored 20 goals for the team, including six in the AFC Cup, said the situation presents more responsibility for his team. “I am having the best season in my football career and hope to keep up with belief that my coach has in me,” Jeje said.

Mohun Bagan had beaten Tampines Rovers in the first round qualifiers for the AFC Champions League early in January. Sen insisted a lot of things have changed since the last time the two met and the upcoming match will be more challenging. “Tampines Rovers have improved over the season and we expect the match to be more competitive and challenging,” he said.

For the visitor, the inclusion of the former Arsenal and Liverpool player Jermaine Pennant is giving it hope. “When we came here in January, it was our first competitive match of the season. It is different now as we are midway through the season and we have lot of games under our belt, so we hope to put up a better show,” Tampine Rovers coach V. Sundaram Moorthy said.

“Compared to the previous side we have included Jermaine Pennant and that gives us more hope for a good result in the match,” Moorthy said about the English player, who is currently contracted with the ISL side FC Pune City.

Rovers will be missing two players – Irish striker Billy Mehmet and midfielder Yassir Henapi – due to suspension while Sahdan Sulaiman is injured. Moorthy, who reportedly will be taking the job of the Singapore national side, insisted that the injuries and suspensions put the two sides on an even plane bringing up the prospect of a good contest.

The match kicks off at 7 p.m.

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