Acid test awaits Aircraftmen

Beleaguered HASC run into formidable East Bengal today

The Bangalore Football stadium, which arguably has the best pitch in the country, has not been too lucky for the home side, having lost all their four matches played here in this edition.

But the memory of their stirring effort against East Bengal in the first match played on the artificial turf at the end of last season is sure to evoke some confidence in HASC against East Bengal on the morrow in a match that will also be the first home game to be beamed live.

That match ended 1-1 with Xavier Vijay Kumar scoring a screamer. But having lost their talisman to Churchill Brothers, the Aircraftmen have found it difficult to identify an inspirational figure. New captain Joseph Femi has been immense at the back, but the Bangalore side have had problems upfront. The creativity provided by last year’s captain J Murali, who signed for Mohun Bagan, has also been sorely missing with James Singh struggling to take on the mantle of the orchestrator.

New signings Ajit Kumar Singh and Vinoth Kumar have been steady, but with A Hamza struggling to find the target, a goalscoring midfielder has been found severely wanting.
HASC, however, showed good attacking intent in their previous game, despite losing 2-4, with Serbian Aleksandar Sujdovic showing he has an eye for goal. Sujdovic will start against EB, playing as a lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation. Hamza is expected to play on the right flank with Ajit coming in for Vinoth in central midfield and goalkeeper Amar Deb will replace the injured P Pramod.

“East Bengal are a big team, but we are definitely going for a win tomorrow,” M Muralidharan, HASC manager, said on Tuesday. “This formation has worked well against Churchill and we hope, if we can finish our chances, it will work again,” he added, while admitting a point wouldn’t be that bad a result.

East Bengal are reeling from a 0-1 reverse in a controversial match againt arch-rivals Bagan and will be desperate to put the loss behind them. What HASC must hope is that Trevor Morgan’s men do not decide to take out all their frustrations on Wednesday afternoon, because when on song they have a striking line-up which can cause problems to any defence in India.

Australian Tolgay Ozbey, who missed the Derby on Sunday, will return and partner either former Rangers player Alan Gow or Robin Singh, both of whom are capable of scoring at will on their day.

Their midfield is equally strong with Nigerian Penn Orji, Sanju Pradhan and Footbal Players Association of India player-of-the-year Mehtab Hussain pulling the strings. “We know East Bengal lost the big match on Sunday, and we hope we can take advantage of that, because their morale might be down,” Muralidharan said.

Live on Ten Action, 3.00 PM

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