Both managers showed contrasting emotions at the end of an exciting game.
Peter Omoduemuke broke the deadlock in the 14th minute but Laldanmawia Ralte was quick to make matters even for the hosts two minutes later. Willis Plaza ended his goalless run of games with a brace (45’+2′, 90’+7′) on either halves injury time with Nicholas Fernandes’ 59th-minute equalizer sandwiched in between.
Despite netting twice, the 30-year-old was wasteful in front of goal as he missed a lot of chances much to the frustration of the assembled East Bengal fans. If the result would had been a stalemate, Plaza’s missed chances missed would have allowed his critics to raise questions on him again.
“Plaza didn’t give up in training. He was working very hard alone. He kept his cool. He tried a lot. He was getting criticized. He was mentally strong. Nobody was supporting him except the players. I am happy for him,” said a much-relieved coach Khalid Jamil.
The former Mumbai FC and Aizawl FC gaffer did not forget to mention that it was the three points at the end of the day which mattered to him the most just to keep themselves in the hunt and reduce the deficit with Mohun Bagan and Minerva at second and top position respectively.
“It was good that we got the three points. I am happy that we got the win. There was a lot of tension but it was not about Plaza. The main thing is to get a positive result. In the previous game (against Lajong), we scored five goals. The next game was always going to be difficult. They knew how we play. We got three points and that is important,” he mentioned.
However, the former Mumbai FC tactician acknowledged that his team are leaking in goals, an area which needs to be addressed. They have already conceded a tally of six goals in the games they have played so far.
“We are conceding silly goals. This is a weak point. In a small league you will not get so many opportunities, but we are working hard on the defensive errors every day in training. Next time we have to be careful. This is a very important win as it gives us a lot of confidence. We lost points in the first two matches, but we are slowly recovering now,” he concluded.
On the other side, Churchill assistant coach Alfred Fernandes blamed their luck for their loss. He said, “We really played well in the last game against Aizawl as well as in this game. My boys showed a lot of character on the pitch. We held the home side 2-2 till the end of the game, but a last second error in the defense cost us a point in the game.”
Alfred had lot of praise for his young goalkeeper James Keethan. He said, “I am really proud of James, the way he played. After conceding five goals against Bagan we worked hard on our last line of defense and James worked hard with our goalkeeping coach. The results are here. But, we are yet to open our account in the league which is a worry for me. Anyways my boys are jelling up well and one win will change the entire situation.”
East Bengal next face Chennai city FC away from home in Coimbatore on the 22nd of this month and Churchill Brothers will also face the same opponent three days earlier in Goa which will be the first home game of the Red Machines this season.