The Blues came from behind to overpower the Kolkata giants as the Red and Gold’s bridesmaid story continued.
From the thinnest possible comprehension, it was not a regular game for any side. The inaugural Super Cup did not just replace the former Federation Cup, it brought a unique sense of rivalry between the I-League and the Indian Super League teams. Bengaluru FC, once the favorite child of the former, faced the mighty East Bengal in the battle to decide the winner between professionalism and legacy. The outcome was unexpected, to say the least.
It was evident from the beginning of the game what East Bengal had intended for the likes of Udanta, Sunil Chhetri and Miku. Subhash Bhowmick’s match reading skills made the Kolkata-based side aware of the importance of using the first half ideally and not letting Chhetri use the extra space on the wings. Only a couple of minutes into the first half, the results was visible to the naked eye. East Bengal pushed the Blues to the brink of struggling – until Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and John Johnson were shown yellow cards, a decision which changed the entire course of the game.
East Bengal did not expect the duels in the wide areas. Albert Roca’s men opted to exploit the wings instead and Laldanmawia and Co. were just not effective against the pace and agility of the raging Bengaluru wingers. However, Gurwinder, a class apart on his days, stood tall like a brick wall in front of Miku and Daniel and put himself on the line every time the play approached the Red and Gold’s left flank.
Fairytales don’t always take place with Aizawls or Minervas. Ghanefo Kromah, who started the season with arch-rivals Mohun Bagan joined the Red and Gold after being shamed, and scored the only goal of the afternoon for East Bengal. Regarded as not reliable by the East Bengal fans as well, the Liberian was on the way to scripting history for the club and delivering the perfect rebuff to critics.
All celebration and no caution made East Bengal a dull boy. Rahul Bheke, on his homecoming, made the Red and Gold concede in the 39th minute. However, it was not the end of worries for Bengal as Bhowmick’s prodigal son, Samad Ali Mallick, was shown a red and not to be mentioned, that left Roca feeling better than ever. The passage was finally open for Bengaluru to start the bombardment.
This was not just a defeat for East Bengal. This was the final nail in the coffin for their two top tacticians. A mixed feeling for both Bhowmick and Khalid Jamil with the defeat as the duo just reached the next level of rhetoric. On the other hand, Bengaluru did not just send out a message but Roca finally reminded Indian football fraternity of the brilliant tactician that he is. We got a taste of the true Barcelona DNA at last.
Indian Super Cup 2018: East Bengal 1-4 Bengaluru FC
Let’s get it straight. Starting Cavin Lobo against arguably the best high pressing side alongside Khalid Aucho was never going to work for East Bengal. Their immature physical approach cost them Samad and left them with 10-men by the end of the first half. Although, the Kolkata giants seemed to know what they had to do, they failed to execute it and the tactically superior Bengaluru defence didn’t seem to feel a nudge.
The second half, it is safe to say, it was a strictly one-sided affair. Chhetri and Miku both registered their names on the scoresheet. After East Bengal conceded two back-to-back goals, the Red and Gold finally started panicking. The left flank was exposed in daylight and the Blues made all approaches from that side.
The fact remains that despite having two seasoned tacticians, East Bengal could not come up with a Plan B. Sankarlal Chakraborty understood Roca’s approach to the game and openly declared it. Did the sense of rivalry play a role in Jamil’s (read Bhowmick’s) tactics while setting up the strategy to face East Bengal?
After conceding two goals in two minutes, the Kolkata giants were clueless for the last 20 minutes of the game. Although, Jobby Justin was sent in, he could put only so much effort in the already misfiring East Bengal forward lineup.
Was the defeat only for East Bengal? Dig deeper and you will know the answer. The defeat was not only for the century-old club, but also for the collective effort of two experienced tacticians themselves. A club with exemplary dedication and skill defeated another with stature, but the difference was made off the pitch. Bengaluru won both the trophy and the hearts whereas East Bengal fell short to feed two egos.