The Red and Gold have now sealed a semi-final spot after their win against Bengaluru FC on Wednesday.
East Bengal booked their place in the Durand Cup 2019 semi-finals with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Bengaluru FC reserves at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on Wednesday. After the Blues had taken the lead through Ajay Chhetri in the 18th minute to stun the home side, substitute Bidyashagar Singh scored a fantastic brace to seal the comeback for the hosts. The Red and Gold will now face Gokulam Kerala in the semis on August 22.
Here are our talking points from the game:
5. Are Alejandro Menendez’s timely substitutions among East Bengal’s biggest weapons this season?
East Bengal really struggled to flaunt their authority in the first half against Bengaluru FC, finding it difficult to break their defence and often being caught napping by the fiery young side. Losing at half-time, Alejandro Menendez brought on Bidyashagar Singh, which proved to be a gem of a substitution. The youngster turned the game around, scoring a brace and helping the Red and Gold end their group stages on a perfect note. The tactician often relies on his substitutes to change games, as they did on numerous occasions last season in the I-League.
There are quite a few impact players in his arsenal, but he keeps them benched, only to unleash them when the opposition is tired. The tactic almost pays off against any given opposition and the likes of Samad Ali Mallick or Bidyashagar are his secret weapons. There isn’t anything opponents can do to counter the impact of his substitutions and Menendez’s intuitive knowledge of how to change games can be decisive going forward.
4. Should certain players from Bengaluru FC’s midfield trio be integrated into the ISL first-team?
Bengaluru FC reserves put on a surprisingly fearless showcase against the mighty East Bengal in their own den. Rather than just sitting back and hoping for a miracle, they strode forward in numbers and their three-man midfield definitely helped keep some possession. Kasim Aidara and Lalrindika Ralte struggled to keep up with the pace, with the Bengaluru midfield trio’s fluid movement and unique skills helping their case.
Suresh Singh Wangjam worked superbly to stop the hosts’ attacks, making crucial tackles and moving the ball around. Biswa Darjee sat ahead protecting his defence expertly, with his movement being especially clever. Ajay Chhetri played the more attacking role and was rewarded with a goal. His creative passes also helped break East Bengal’s line. While breaking into Bengaluru’s first-team ahead of the likes of Erik Paartalu, Dimas Delgado and Harmanjot Khabra is a huge task, these young midfielders are clever and mobile enough to at least get some minutes next season.
3. Do East Bengal need more mobility in midfield?
While Bengaluru weren’t able to oust East Bengal in the air or physically in the game, they made up for it with quickness in moving possession. Not only down the wings, but Bengaluru’s midfielders often found and capitalized on space through the middle. Aidara was often left standing alone with the defensive duties through the middle and couldn’t cope with his young opposition’s pace.
Ralte was only decent from set-pieces, with his slow reactions and misplaced passes frustrating many. This midfield can be even more vulnerable against superior sides with tricky midfielders.
2. Should Leon Augustine be used as an alternative to Udanta Singh by Bengaluru next season?
In what was a performance which shed the spotlight on a number of exciting young prospects in Bengaluru’s reserve system, Leon Augustine was probably proved as the best. The youngster has appeared for the senior team occasionally in recent years, but he decided to treat the fans to something special against the Red and Gold. With his silky movement down the right, he gave nightmares to Abhishek Ambekar.
Augustine often penetrated through East Bengal’s defence with his electric pace, skipping past players at will. It was his blazing run which created Bengaluru’s first goal, but he continued being a thorn in East Bengal’s side with his bag of tricks. The right winger proved he’s more than capable of performing against the big guns and could definitely cause nightmares for ISL defenders. Udanta Singh is obviously Bengaluru’s go-to man, but Augustine proved himself as a healthy alternative to keep the ISL champions’ attack unpredictable next season.
1. Will Bidyashagar Singh play a bigger role for East Bengal this season?
Coming through the 6-0 thrashing they handed Jamshedpur FC reserves last week, East Bengal were somewhat taken aback by the intensity of Bengaluru’s second side. Menendez’s team tried to outmuscle the relatively younger opposition with physical attributes, but the drawn out long ball tactics didn’t work. However, when they did create chances, there wasn’t anyone to capitalize on them.
Boithang Haokip scuffed a promising chance in the first half, forcing Menendez to change him for Bidyashagar Singh after the break. The East Bengal academy product arrived like a storm, destabilizing Bengaluru’s defence with his movement. He was all over the place, forcing a strong save from Aditya Patra early in the second half.
However, his electric pace was displayed when he covered a lot of distance in seconds and powered through the equalizer. He later broke through on goal to score another decisive winner, adding his fifth of the Durand Cup. If there was any doubt before, this super-sub performance proves the youngster deserves a bigger role.