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Durand Cup 2019: Alejandro Menendez’s East Bengal kick-off new season in style

09:10 GMT+3 04/08/2019
East Bengal
The Kolkata giants exhibited remarkable fitness from the very first match of the 2019-20 season….

Alejandro Menendez’s East Bengal played their first ever match in club’s home ground on Saturday and pulled off a comfortable win against Army Red in their Durand Cup opener.

The Spanish coach, who took charge of the team in September 2018, hardly stepped foot on the East Bengal ground as he never really liked the turf and deemed it unfit for training.

Even on Saturday, after the match, the former Real Madrid Castilla refused to praise the pitch as he termed it as a hard. But the team displayed an impressive performance in their season opener against a fit army side.

After Mohun Bagan kicked-off their season with a 2-0 win over Mohammedan Sporting, the pressure was on the Red and Golds to make a winning start.

It took East Bengal 84 minutes to break the Army defence and score the opening goal but eventually they bagged full points quite comfortably.

While both the Kolkata giants got off to a 2-0 win in their respective opening matches in the Durand Cup, the fitness of their players stood out for East Bengal.

When Mohun Bagan players struggled to play in similar intensity throughout 90 minutes, the Red and Golds maintained consistency throughout.

Luck remained elusive for East Bengal for majority of the match as the Kolkata club hit the upright thrice in the first half. Jaime Santos Colado, who scored from a beautifully curled free-kick in the 84th minute, had seen an identical attempt in the first half hit the post. Boithang Haokip too could have scored on his debut but alas the woodwork came in between.

Haokip, who joined East Bengal from Bengaluru FC this season, made his debut as a striker against Army Red alongside Jaime Santos. A utility player, Haokip has appeared in several positions in the past but playing a number nine’s role was something new to him. Three other players made their debut for the Kolkata side.

Overall it was an impressive show by the Red and Golds who showed early promise. With a new foreign striker coming in very soon, the attacking third of the team is likely to get enhanced as the season progresses.