EB start favourite against Yangon side in AFC Cup pre-quarters
Kolkata: East Bengal start as favourites when they take on Yangon United of Myanmar in the AFC Cup pre-quarterfinals at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Wednesday.
Placed fourth in the ongoing Myanmar league, the Yangon United made the last-16 stage after finishing runners-up to New Radiant SC of Maldives on goal difference in the Group F of the preliminary stage of the AFC Cup.
East Bengal, on the other hand, had a historic unbeaten run as they topped Group H that earned them the right to play the knockout one-leg round at home.
Trevor Morgan`s men, who concluded the I-League on a losing note to finish third, will bank on the home supporters as they will be desperate to come to terms in the tournament that has been eventful for them.
"To qualify (for pre-quarters) by being unbeaten is a big achievement. Now, we all are keen to make the quarterfinals. Hope the crowd come in large numbers and cheer for us," Morgan said on the eve of the match.
Profligacy has been one of the key factors for their disappointing run in the I-League but Morgan did not sound worried.
"The strikers are missing chances but I am happy that they are creating opportunities. That`s a positive sign," Morgan said.
The Englishman, however, said the Myanmarese opponents could be tough nut to crack.
Pointing out that the Yangon outfit had 15 points compared to East Bengal`s 14 at the group stage, Morgan said, "They might have finished runners-up but they won five matches."
East Bengal had won four and drew one en route to the last-16 and Morgan said the Yangon side would be a big challenge.
Morgan will bank on Lalrindika Ralte, Chidi Edeh, Penn Orji and Andrew Barisic who are the leading scorers with three goals each even as Manandeep Singh is suspended.
Captain Mehtab Hossain said he had an added motivation against the Myanmarese as he was part of the Indian team which lost 0-1 to the visitors` national side in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in March.
"We are also representing the country through East Bengal in this premier tournament. Certainly We can prove a point tomorrow," Hossain said recollecting India`s loss in Yangon.
Incidentally nine Myanmar Internationals -- Kyi Lyn, David Htan, Khin Maung Lwin, Yan Aung Kyaw and and Yaza Win Thien (all midfielders); Aung Thike, Pyae Phyo Aung (both defenders); Aung Sithu, Kyaw Ko Ko (Strikers) -- figure in the visiting squad.
The Myanmar team will largely depend on Ivory Coast forward Kone Adame who is their leading striker with nine goals in the group stage.
They also have three more foreign recruits in defenders Michael Cvetkovski (Australia), Gnonsian Oulou Jean Patrice (Ivory Coast) and Brazilian forward Cezar Augusto Hermangildo.
The two teams have met only once before in an exhibition match which was won 3-1 by East Bengal in August 19 2009.
Yangon head coach Ivan Venkov Kolev said East Bengal would have the home advantage but his side would give their best shot.
Taking a dig at the rule of the group toppers to play the pre-quarterfinals knockout at home, Kolev said, "It should have been on a home and away basis to give both the teams a fair chance. But that`s the way it is, we are here to do give our best."