Desperate times for EB, HASC

Kolkatans keen to win big against relegation-threatened Aircraftmen

East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan (third from right) guides his players at a training session at the Bangalore Football Stadium on Friday. DH photo / B K Janardhan

East Bengal -- title contenders and favourites for much of the season -- and Hindustan Aeronautics Sports Club -- one of the more enterprising sides in the I-League  -- will be desperate for three points in the penultimate round on the new turf at the Bangalore Football stadium on Saturday, but for totally different reasons.

The Aircraftmen, who punched above their weight during the early part of the season, have slipped remarkably, losing their last six games, and find themselves in a desperate situation. Placed at the bottom of the table with just 20 points from 24 matches, they need maximum points from their last two matches to have any chance of playing top-level football next season. ONGC are a rung above them, with 23 points from 25 matches, while JCT and Air India have 24 each from 25.

“We know it is a desperate situation. But we have a really nice pitch now and we are confident that we can do our job, which is to pick up six points from the next two games,” M Muralidharan, manager of HASC, said.

The turf, which was met by mixed reviews from players of the ‘A’ Division teams, looked good on Friday morning and was praised by coaches and players from both teams.

“The pitch is looking good. No complaints whatsover about the pitch,” Trevor Morgan, East Bengal coach said. “We know that we need to win tomorrow and win big. So we will be in all out attack mode and will try to win by 4-5 goals to boost our goal difference.”
East Bengal lie third with 47 points from 24 matches, six behind leaders Salgaocar who have played one match more than the Kolkata side. The Goans however have a vastly superior goal difference.

HASC have no injury or suspension worries, but will most likely be without Xavier Vijay Kumar, who has missed training for the past three days.

“Xavier has not shown up for training for a while now and we are not sure why,” Muralidharan said. The player meanwhile, said that he couldn’t make it to training because of fever.

Goals -- which have been desperately hard to come by for the Aircraftmen -- will be crucial if they are to stand any chance against a formidable, even if a little jaded East Bengal side who have played five matches in the last two weeks.

East Bengal will again look to their Australian striker Tolgay Ozbey, who will most likely pair up with the in-form Baljit Sahni, to find the net as many times as possible.

Dempo crash

Defending champions Dempo’s title hopes went up in smoke as they went down 2-3 to Pune FC on Friday.

Arata Izumi struck a brace (56th and 76th minutes) after Mandjou Keita had scored the first goal for hosts Pune FC in the 34th minute. Roberto Silva (62nd) and Ranti Martins (66th) reduced the margin for Dempo, who needed a win to remain in hunt for the title.
Dempo lie fourth with 47 points with two matches remaining.

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