The loss sends the Red and Gold Brigade lower down the table at eighth position.
East Bengal fell to their third successive defeat in the I-League as they crumbled to a 0-1 defeat against defending champions Minerva Punjab, at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on Tuesday. After what was a cagey first half, Punjab showed more urgency to score in the second half and got their winner in the 77th minute when a mistake from Ubaid CK allowed William Opoku to score. This result takes Punjab to second place, while East Bengal’s horrible dismay continues.
Here are our talking points from the match:
5. East Bengal’s wingers working as their own bane
Brandon was aimless and poor during his entire time in the pitch
Yami Longvah and Brandon Vanlalremdika started the game on East Bengal’s wings but ended up being a huge problem for the side moving forward. Both the wingers were dismal against Minerva Punjab, failing to trouble either full-back. They barely created anything and their inefficiency forced Joby Justin to move to the right at times to create chances.
Longvah and Brandon’s poor crossing, creativity and horrible decision-making frustrated their own players. Defender Samad Ali Mallick was brought in during the second half in place of the horrible Longvah, summing up Alejandro Menendez’s frustration at his underwhelming wingers.
4. Minerva Punjab’s game-plan works to perfection
The defending champions came to Kolkata with a very pragmatic plan to frustrate East Bengal and try to score one late on which could win them the game. This was exactly what panned out during the game, as Minerva Punjab played the first half in an extremely negative manner by defending it out. They changed it up in the second half, playing with a more attacking formation and using their pace to advantage.
They were luckily handed a goal when Ubaid’s error in judgement allowed Opoku to slot the ball in an open net in the 77th minute. Minerva then saw the game out in a cagey manner, recording another famous victory at Kolkata, to peg back discreetly into the title race.
3. Ubaid CK’s mistake costs East Bengal once again
East Bengal did well to contain Minerva’s threat almost throughout the game but undid their own work late in the second half. After doing good work almost throughout the game, a mental lapse from Ubaid CK destroyed their ambitions to get a late winner. Minerva created a great move through the left, with a great cross being played in by substitute Moinuddin Khan.
However, Ubaid couldn’t judge the pace of the ball and went charging ahead to collect it, only for it to go past him and enable Opoku to easily score in an open goal. This humiliating goal almost sums up Ubaid and East Bengal’s situation right now, who need to re-evaluate themselves after another reality-check.
2. William Opoku still the ‘go to man’ for the defending champions
William Opoku was a lone warrior for Minerva Punjab when the game started, wandering around in attack with baseless long-balls being played onto him. However, when Minerva changed things around by moving him into the wings, Opoku came to life. He looked much more dangerous in the second half, moving with vigor on the wings and being a thorn in East Bengal’s side.
The Ghanaian created a decent chance for himself when he moved into space, but shot wide from a tight angle in the second half. However, lady luck would favor him late in the game when a cross from Moinuddin fell into his path, allowing him to score the easiest goal of his career. Opoku’s winner gave Minerva three vital points while winning him the Hero of the Match award too.
1. Is Alejandro Menendez’s job under threat?
Menendez needs to get things straight if he doesn’t want to receive the boot
East Bengal came into the game under heavy pressure, having lost their last two games and needing a win to impress their fans at home. However, they just didn’t show the will-power and urgency to win the game and played in a very laid-back manner. Among the horrible passing and giving away possession cheaply, the fact that they were under pressure could be felt in their game. That was seen by Punjab, who threatened in the second half and ultimately got their winning goal.
East Bengal never looked like they’d score after that point, with the players looking dejected almost throughout. This loss now takes it to three losses in a row, means that Alejandro Menendez has things cut out for him. He’ll be under pressure to turn it around as soon as possible and any negative result against Gokulam Kerala could prematurely end his career as East Bengal manager.