East Bengal began their journey in the Indian Super League (ISL) on a sour note as they went down 0-2 against arch-rivals ATK Mohun Bagan on Friday.
The Red and Golds were a late entrant into the ISL and hence, had less time to prepare for the season as compared to the rest of the teams. Former India striker Shyam Thapa believes that although East Bengal suffered a defeat in their ISL opener, Robbie Fowler's team did a commendable job given the circumstances.
“It is quite normal that East Bengal went down to ATK Mohun Bagan as it was their first match. But there was not much difference between the two teams except the two goals. I have to say that East Bengal, in their first match and with less preparation in such a big tournament, did not play badly. I am quite sure that they will improve in the coming days.
“The match was interesting but there was a lack of good moves. The match was decided by individual brilliance,” Thapa told Goal.
The former East Bengal striker praised ATK Mohun Bagan’s Roy Krishna, who scored the opening goal of the match. He was also impressed by Manvir Singh’s second goal which was his solo effort.
“Krishna is a great goal-scorer. For one hour he did nothing with the ball. He got one chance and buried that into the net. He does not miss much. And the second goal by Manvir (Singh) was an intelligent goal. A good goal by an Indian scorer.”
Thapa, who is also the Chairman of All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) Technical Committee, praised Antonio Habas’ pragmatic tactics. He also reiterated that Fowler's team can only improve but they need to be more alert at the back.
He said, “Habas is a very clever coach. He knows when to make the substitutions and whom to bring on. This shows his experience. He knows how to defend a lead and manage the game. This is his forte. But if East Bengal had beaten Bagan in their very first match, there was a chance of complacency setting in the side. This defeat would spur them to work harder and come back stronger. Fowler has a lot to think about after conceding two goals.”