History beckons as EB face Kuwait SC
Kolkata: East Bengal will play their biggest and toughest match to date on home turf when they face defending champions Kuwait SC in the AFC Cup return leg semifinal at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Monday.
Having lost their first leg semifinal to Kuwait SC 4-2 in Kuwait City, the Kolkata giants have their task cut out as they require at least a 2-0 or 3-1 win to make history.
No Indian club ever has advanced to the AFC Cup final. Dempo had qualified for the semis in 2008 while East Bengal`s previous best was in 2004 when Subhas Bhowmick had coached the side to quarters.
It will be interesting to watch the strategy of Brazilian coach Marcos Falopa whose experimentation with Saumik Dey from left back to move up in the midfield has often drawn flak.
Otherwise, East Bengal would have a settled line-up in James Moga and Edeh Chidi up front, while the third foreigner Uga Okpara would have the most challenging job to thwart the Kuwait SC strikers.
Captain Mehtab Hossain, Cavin Lobo and Lalrindika Ralte would initiate the all-important moves from the midfield.
The huge gap between both the teams is evident from the fact that the Kuwaiti outfit is looking for a record third AFC Cup title
and is ranked 141st among world clubs in which East Bengal are ranked 447th.
Kuwait SC won the AFC Cup in 2009, 2012, they were runners-up in 2011 and also have clinched the Kuwait Premier League 11 times.
They boast of the tournament`s top-scorer Issam Jemaa, who has scored seven times against Radiant SC in the quarters and his link-up play with midfield dynamo Rogerio Silva from Brazil is exceptional.
The 29-year old was the architect of their 4-2 win with a double in the first leg and East Bengal would once again feel the heat from the Tunisian forward.
Reflecting on the big challenge, Falopa said: "It`s never the end. Our next target is the match. Past is past, so don`t be upset. Keep support and stay with your club".
It was a late flourish in which Okpara and Ralte scored in the 66th and 88th minutes that gave the side a lot of hope as the two away goals could prove decisive on Monday.
East Bengal would look for a 2-0 or 3-1 score but the match would go into extra time if it become 4-2.
In that scenario, the away goal rule would not be applied in the extra time.