East Bengal shrugged off their poor form in I-League by beating Gokulam Kerala FC 3-1 on Saturday at the Salt Lake stadium, Kolkata.
Goals each from Brandon Vanlalremdika, Jobby Justin and Lalram Chullova sealed a much-needed win for the Kolkata club. Christian Sabah scored the only goal for the visitors.
Speaking about the win against Kerala, East Bengal boss Alejandro Menendez said, “Of course this is a good confidence booster for us. The team was confident earlier but it is now more confident. It’s better for us to work next week with this and prepare to win the derby.
“The team played very well in the first half. We created many chances. In the second half, the team’s momentum went a bit down. We created three or four chances more towards the end.”
The Spanish coach benched Costa Rican World Cupper Johnny Acosta and handed Salam Ranjan Singh his first start of the season. On the decision of benching Acosta, the coach explained, “All the players of my squad can play. For today, I chose these XI players. Maybe for the next day, we’ll choose someone else. We always choose the best players to try and win the match.
“All of the players are the same for me. I don’t think about the nationality. But if the players are improving, it’s good news for us.”
East Bengal started the match on a great not and had picked up two quick goals. But in the second half, Gokulam were in control and East Bengal were on the back foot.
On the contrasting performance in the two halves, the coach opined, “In the second half, the idea was to try to counter-attack more. If we got a little defensive, we could counter-attack well. In the first 15 minutes we couldn’t do that, but afterwards, we counter-attacked pretty well and had many three vs one, two vs one chance. That was our idea.”
Gokulam coach Bino George said, “Second half we played well, but their early goals put us on the back foot. Also, I am not satisfied with the refereeing. Didika should have got a red card. But, East Bengal played well. I had put Sabah on the wing first. But, then I put him in the centre and he scored.”
After facing both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, George felt that the Green and Maroons are ahead of their rivals in terms of quality.
He said, “I think Mohun Bagan are still better than East Bengal heading into the Kolkata derby. East Bengal’s midfield is still pretty weak compared to Mohun Bagan and our Kerala boys couldn’t really test them that well.
“The boy I put in the centre, Sabah, scored the goal. He normally plays as a winger. We need a replacement for German in a proper striker. There was some confusion between our defenders. It was a difficult away match today and I hope we do better at home from now on.”