Salgaocar, East Bengal fight for survival


Margao : Despite their disappointing performances so far in the I-League football tournament, Salgaocar coach Savio Medeira is backing his players to rise to the challenge against East Bengal in the 10th round encounter at Nehru Stadium here Tuesday.

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Salgaocar, without a win in the first phase, are at the bottom of the pool and have been left with a mountain to climb as the second leg kicks-off of the tournament starts Tuesday.

But Medeira is not among those who have written off the former National Football League champions’ chances. “We can still turn things around.”

Salgaocar are going through the sort of luck that seems to affect teams marooned at the bottom. They scored three goals against JCT and four against Mohun Bagan, but did not win either of the matches, as late goals cost them dear.

The coach admits confidence is seriously brittle, but is hoping for a change in the fortunes with the signing of former East Bengal coach Subhash Bhowmick as the technical director.

Salgaocar take on East Bengal on the back of a morale-boosting 3-3 draw with JCT, but its their defensive record that is worrying Medeira.

“We are getting the goals, but conceding far too many. We need to be disciplined in defence,” he says.

While that may sound good for Medeira, the absence of Rwandan defender Herry Habimana could pose a problem or two.

Herry’s replacement, Nicolau Colaco, lacks in experience and may find rival East Bengal’s Brazilian striker Edmilson Marques too hot to handle. Upfront, Kenyan striker Boniface Ambani returns for Salgaocar.

A contest between Salgaocar and East Bengal, normally, provides the barometer to which way the title chase would swing.

But, both teams have been so disappointing in the I-League, that they are fighting for survival rather than top honours.

East Bengal’s fall from grace has been a real surprise since the Federation Cup champions were tipped as favourites for the title when the I-League kicked off in November.

“It’s a pity we are fighting for survival, instead of the title,” admitted East Bengal captain Alvito D’Cunha.

East Bengal have lost five matches on the trot, their worst performance in the championship.

Dipendu Biswas is expected to partner Edmilson Marques upfront following an injury to Ashim Biswas.