Road to the Final: East Bengal exhibit perseverance and balance
East Bengal became the first club to make the Final of the inaugural edition of the Hero Super Cup on Monday, after defeating a wounded FC Goa side. The Red and Gold Brigade, who will face former foes Bengaluru FC in the title clash on Friday, have not had an easy journey so far, having had to overcome stubborn oppositions along the way. After failing to win the Hero I-League 2017-18 title, the desire to take home the coveted silverware will be at an all-time high amongst Khalid Jamil’s men. Here we take a glance at how the Kolkata giants made it to the Final and their chances ahead.
Inspired comeback against Mumbai City FC
Bengal faced the Islanders in their first knockout fixture of the competition. Within the first 25 minutes of the pre-quarter final, Achille Emana put Mumbai ahead with a stunning free-kick. However, Bengal clawed their way back into the tie when Katsumi Yusa got on the end of a brilliant cross from Laldanmawia Ralte to head home. The equaliser served as a catalyst for their resurgence, as Mahmoud Al Amna finally broke the deadlock to hand East Bengal a well-earned victory and a spot in the quarter-finals.
Ralte’s injury-time spot-kick down Aizawl FC
East Bengal’s clash with Aizawl FC in the quarter-finals rekindled the rivalry that they shared in the Hero I-League. Jamil’s men started the game on the front foot and were clearly the dominant side throughout the 90 minutes, but just could not make it count in the final third. With the game bound to head into extra-time, the referee awarded them an all-important penalty in injury-time. Ralte stepped up to take the spot-kick and comfortably slotted it past the keeper to book a semi-final berth.
Persistence pays off against FC Goa
The Gaurs would prove to be Bengal’s biggest challenge yet, taking into account their potent attacking force. However entering the fixture, they held a slight advantage over Goa, as nine of Derrick Pereira’s men was excluded from the squad due to injuries and suspensions - a fact that was quite evident on the pitch. East Bengal dominated proceedings for most parts, with their persistence finally paying off in the latter stages of the second half, when Yusa and Omegbemi Dudu combined brilliantly to score and take Bengal to the Final.
- Heading into the Hero Super Cup, Bengal possessed one of the most lethal attacking forces, as they finished the Hero I-League 2017-2018 season as the top-scorers. Their qualification to the Final has largely been down to the scintillating form of Yusa, Dudu and Amna upfront, who have notched up a goal each in this
- While Bengal are known for their strong offence, their defensive backline have also been quite impressive in the competition. The pairing of Eduardo Soares and Gurwinder Singh in centre-back, and custodian Ubaid CK under the sticks have been rock-solid. They have conceded just a single goal in the competition.
- Despite possessing a solid attacking unit, the one aspect that has come to the fore is their failure to take enough advantage of their chances. For all their creative play and intricate passing, Bengal have not been able to make it count in the final third, which can prove to be their downfall in the Final. They have to be more potent in attack and squander lesser chances if they want to be crowned as champions.
Mahmoud Al Amna – The Syrian forward has been an ever-present figure in East Bengal’s line-up. His pace and skill on the ball have been key in unlocking opposition defences. He also possesses the clinical ability to find the back of the net on a regular basis.
Katsumi Yusa – Yusa has been one of the standout performers of the tournament so far. The 29-year-old Japanese is known for his ability to run at defenders down the flanks as well as his vision on the ball, while being equally adept at assisting and scoring for his team.
Omegbemi Dudu – Dudu has had a mixed tournament so far. The Nigerian was uncharacteristically wasteful against Aizawl but did score the winner against Goa in the Semi-final. East Bengal’s top-scorer of the season is a genuine threat and will be on the lookout for a match-winning performance in the Final.