'Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently'Trevor Morgan must be instilling the above saying into his wards time and again, especially due to the recent torrid time that the Red and Golds are enduring. It is a tale of contrasting fortunes. While they are still unbeaten in the continental competition, on the verge of progressing from the group stages with relative ease, their hopes of a maiden I-League crown are slipping out of their grasp. One would have thought, that the success in the AFC Cup might trickle down to the I-League, but instead complacency, injuries and fatigue have all played their part in leaving only a tiny window for the Kolkata giants to steal the title from the Red Machines who almost have it wrapped up.
East Bengal which was a fortress in their first ten league encounters, being unbeaten with the meanest defense by a mile, looks leaky at best now, with the defenders lacking that composure that defined their early season. This is probably down to the untimely injury to defensive stalwart, Arnab Mondal who had in fact surpassed his centre-back partner, Uga Okpara in his displays and had earned himself a call to the national team. The lack of replacements of that quality meant that Morgan's men have let in avoidable goals, often brought around by a momentary lapse of concentration.
|Arnab Mondal is being sorely missed by East Bengal|
While Churchill haven't had a great run of results in the AFC Cup, they have made the opportunities count in the league. Take the case of Air India. While Churchill thumped them by three goals, East Bengal only managed a solitary point where their strikers wasted chances aplenty. In addition to the defensive problems, the lack of support for Chidi Edeh has been a major cause of concern as neither Baljit Sahni nor Robin Singh could deliver the goods. The signing of Andrew Barisic came too late but he hasn't had many chances.
| East Bengal are going gung ho in the AFC Cup, but faltering back home
While Churchill have done the Red and Golds several favours by being held, first against Salgaocar FC and then against minnows, ONGC. East Bengal, instead of grabbing it with both hands, just returned the favour back by scuppering to draws themselves, in both cases letting a lead slip by, and then blaming it on myriad things like fatigue and injuries, while only concentration might have been enough to earn them six points.
'Opportunity does not knock, it presents itself when you beat down the door'
As things stand, Churchill are 4 points clear of their closest rivals with also a game in hand, and six points from their four games in hand will see them to the title, irrespective of the other results. A miracle is the only thing that can take East Bengal close to their desire of finishing the season as Champions of India. Ironically or otherwise, it is East Bengal's arch rivals, their noteworthy nemesis, their eternal enemies, Mohun Bagan in whose hands rest their dwindling fortunes.
Something akin to a nightmare for the Red and Golds faithful and a source of immense satisfaction for the otherwise downbeat Mariners lot, who are battling relegation this time around. And why should that not be, as effectively the Green and Maroon are the kingmakers, as they face champions elect, Churchill Brothers twice in a row in a double header, home and away.
|Can worst enemies turn best friends? East Bengal will certainly hope so...|
While Churchill also play Dempo SC before the double header and finish off with a trip to bring down the Airmen, East Bengal have it relatively easy as they face minnows, Shillong Lajong and United Sikkim beside Dempo. Traditionally East Bengal have always been strong against Dempo, even when they were in top form and they might be easy prey now that they are on a winless streak. While derby emotions might just as well fire the underperforming Whites to play out of their shell and record a win against the Red Machines.
Then the double header becomes immense as considering that East Bengal pick up maximum points from their remaining matches, the six points at stake might just win East Bengal the league.
The blessing in disguise is that, Mohun Bagan would dare not risk dropping points in any situation to hinder their rivals' chances as that might lead them to being relegated as they are still in contention for missing out. So Mohun Bagan can be sure that no matter how much they might want to prevent their arch rivals from winning the title, they would have no other option but to give it their best shot, with their best personnel available.
What do you think? As a Mohun Bagan fan do you want your team to gift the title to East Bengal? Do you want to be a kingmaker? And East Bengal fans, do you expect them to do the favour?
Follow Kaustav Bera on
How do you stay up to date with football when on the move? With http://m.goal.com – your best source for mobile coverage of the beautiful game.