The Spaniard was content with his team’s display despite slumping to a narrow defeat.
East Bengal suffered their third consecutive loss in the I-League in the Kolkata Derby on Sunday, falling to a 1-2 loss to Mohun Bagan at the Salt Lake Stadium. Goals from Joseba Beitia and Papa Babacar Diawara sealed their fate, while a strike from Marcos de la Espada only ended up being a consolation for the Red and Gold. Despite coming up on the losing end, Alejandro Menendez hailed his team and was impressed with how they worked.
He said, “I think we played a big game. We played very good football. In the second half, we showed to everyone how we can put pressure on the opponent inside the box.”
“We created a lot of chances and were successfully playing good football. The players went to fight for the ball everywhere, we played with high pressure and we showed a lot of momentum. We created 10-12 chances to score, hit the crossbar, were denied a penalty. There were many positive things to show as well,” he added.
The Spaniard refused to rule out their chances of winning the I-League saying, “If we play like this we won’t lose many games. Last year, this (three losses) happened already and in the end, we almost became champions. If we play like this, the team will win all the games. So, I am not worrying.”
Alejandro Menendez gave an explanation about why his team under-performed before the two goals, stating that the occasion might’ve gotten to his players. He said, “In the first half, the players were tensed by the situation. We were under pressure. After playing good in the first 15 minutes we became a bit tense. After that we came up, we pushed forward and had a lot of chances to come back into the game.”
“There are two reasons for the players being tensed. Maybe one is that it’s a big game. It’s the game of the year. So, the players could feel that. Maybe, the fact that we came from two losses put them under pressure for the need to win. But, even after that, we came back and the players showed very good character,” he added.
The former Real Madrid Castilla manager insisted that the team has been improving since the start of the season. He explained, “I think we were the best in the league before the start of January. I got the Coach of the Month from the league in December. I think against Churchill (Brothers) we created chances and lost in the very last minute. But, the team played really well.”
“We had some chances, but we didn’t win. In the second game we lost (against Gokulam Kerala), I think the opponents were better. But, the team is playing good and we showed to everyone that we’re a good team even with three losses. In April you can ask who East Bengal is. If you just ask me when we lose and not when we win, I don’t think it’s fair,” he further quipped.
Alejandro Menendez hailed Edmund Lalrindika’s impact in the game, while also praising Abhijit Sarkar’s work after coming on. He said, “Edmund came into the game in very good shape. He improved our attacking delivery into the box. We have been unlucky again with the injury. Things like that happen in football. We made the substitution as it happened and you can’t control it. It’s very unfortunate. I think Abhijit did well too and he kept the level of the team on the right flank.”
The Spaniard also reassured the fans that East Bengal will become better after pointing out that he guided his side to their best finish in the last 14 years in the previous campaign. He said, “I’m grateful for the fans’ support. I got the club to their best table position in the last 14 years. I think we played really good football all throughout the season. So, this is my message to the fans.”