I-League: East Bengal eyes turnaround against Aizawl

East Bengal’s sporadic form has been its biggest impediment in its hopes of winning the country’s biggest football tournament.

Aizawl coach Jahar Das and player Robert Lalthlamuana at a press conference.   -  I-League Media

East Bengal will be desperate to reverse its two-match losing trend and revive its diminishing I-League fortunes when it plays Aizawl FC here on Saturday.

East Bengal’s sporadic form has been its biggest impediment in its hopes of winning the country’s biggest football tournament.

It collected momentum after the arrival of former French international Bernard Mendy, winning three consecutive matches to rub shoulders with tournament favourites Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru FC. Some pundits even dubbed the Kolkata side as co-favourites for the title.

But since then it has been derailed in two matches, losing 0-2 away against bottom-placed DSK Shivajians and 1-3 against a struggling Salgaocar, leaving the side third with 17 points from 10 matches.

The team trails leader Mohun Bagan by five points with six matches left to be played. Second-placed Bengaluru also has 22 points but has played a game more. Aizawl lies seventh with nine points from 10 matches.

More than the margin, the nature of defeat has disappointed the East Bengal coach Biswajit Bhattacharya and the expectant fans more.

It lacked cohesiveness on the pitch and presented heartless efforts against the two bottom-most teams in the league, shocking the team contingent.

The problem lies in every department with the defence being a picture of wobbliness, midfielders chasing shadows of their opponents and frustrated attackers forced to fend for themselves, managing very few scoring opportunities.

Veteran defender Bello Rassaq has been a pale shadow of himself after his much-publicised switch from Mohun Bagan at the beginning of the season. His partnership with India international Arnab Mandal has failed to click, leaving Bhattacharya to contemplate fielding Mendy beside Rassaq.

Mendy himself has been criticised for his poor fitness levels and apparent immobility at the centre of the pitch. Nigerian striker Ranty Martins, its best frontman, has been starved of ball supply, leaving him frustrated at the final third.

But the bewildering mystery in the team has been South Korean midfielder Do Dong-hyun’s fall from grace.

He announced his arrival with a magical brace against Mohun Bagan in a 4-0 rout in the Calcutta Football League at the start of the season but since then has faded into oblivion to the point that he wasn’t even included in the 18-man squad for two matches.

Bhattacharya is under pressure to galvanise a disorganised and demotivated bunch of players and only a win on Saturday can glue up the faltering outfit.

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