The Mexican striker scored a brace for the visitors on Saturday evening.
East Bengal kicked-off their I-League season in a brilliant fashion as they took down last campaign’s runners-up NEROCA FC at the Khuman Lampak Main Stadium in Imphal. The game was marked by fouls, fights and rash challenges. But, a brace from new recruit Enrique Esqueda was enough to seal the deal for the Kolkata giants.
Here are five things that we learnt from the game:
5. Poor team selection cost NEROCA
Manuel Retamero Fraile, the NEROCA tactician made a bold choice by dropping Varney Kallon in their opening game, but it backfired for him. The Liberian, who was one of the best defenders in the league last season, was sorely missed as naïve errors from the likes of Aryn Williams cost the Orange Army the game. Putting Mauro Boerchio in goal also proved to be a foolish mistake, as the Italian hardly impressed in his debut outing.
4. East Bengal may have finally sorted out their defensive issues
Since the departure of Uga Okpara, the East Bengal defence has failed to find a replacement for him. But it seems that with the arrival of Costa Rica international Johnny Acosta and Spanish centre-back Borja Gomez, they may have finally found a solution. The duo was very impressive in this game, neutralizing Felix Chidi completely and reducing NEROCA to shooting from distance and putting in hopeful long balls.
Academy lad Manoj Mohammed put in an extremely vital shift as well. He coped with the threat of Yendremban Metei, the tricky NEROCA winger and repaid the faith of his coach who had picked him over national team defender Salam Ranjan Singh.
3. Enrique Esqueda is absolutely lethal
Just like their backline which has been failing spectacularly for the last few seasons, the Red and Gold have also found it hard to score frequently in the league. However, Enrique Esqueda seems to be the answer to that problem, as the Mexican was simply everywhere on the pitch today.
Esqueda not only scored a brace but also dropped deep repeatedly to get involved in the attack more and even made a goal-line clearance of an Eduardo header. He should only get better as the season progresses and if the supply line for East Bengal keeps giving him good service, he will be a real headache for opposition defences.
2. NEROCA FC have to stick to a proper strategy
Despite having a host of big names in their lineup, the home side looked desperately short of ideas on Saturday afternoon. They failed to get anything going for them in midfield and on the wings, so they kept putting in hopeful long balls into the box, which were easily repelled by the tall East Bengal centre-backs.
Poor performances of Chidi, Williams and the untimely departure of Katsumi Yusa only compounded their problems. Fraile has to work on his tactics and his players if they are to impress fans and pundits in a similar fashion to what they did last season.
1. East Bengal can go all the way this season
Although, it is only the first game of the season, it can be argued that East Bengal have the firepower to go all the way this season. They may have faltered previously on multiple occasions, but under Alejandro Menendez, they look like a completely different side. 14 years has been a long wait, but there is a good chance that the Red and Gold faithful may have something to cheer about if they keep playing like they did today.