Kozhikode: On a roll with three unbeaten matches after the derby debacle, East Bengal’s hopes for their maiden I-League title reignited after defeating Minerva Punjab in their own courtyard and the Red and Golds will look to carry the momentum forward when they take on Gokulam Kerala at the EMS Corporation Stadium here on Saturday.
The consecutive wins over Arrows and Minerva has placed East Bengal on third, with 26 points after 14 games, four behind Neroca who have played two matches more. Gokulam on the other, are on ninth, just a notch above the relegation berth.
A win over Bagan in their last fixture helped the Kerala based side leapfrog Chennai City to ninth and now they stand on 13 points from 14 matches.
They will look the do the same on Saturday — kill another giant — that will them carry them to seventh. “For East Bengal, winning this match is important for them, the same way it is more important for us also win this particular match,” said head coach Bino George.
But East Bengal won’t leave an inch of space. Hence George added that “if they won’t, we won’t either.”
Gokulam’s most recent performance however has kept Jamil worried ahead of what he called was a ‘vital match’ for them. “They’re playing very good football now” he said talking of the Malabarians and urged his boys to be cautious but eke out a win “to stay alive in the title race.”
Jamil’s boys have scored the highest no of goals this season (21) and will have to be at their lethal best if they are to beat a new-look Gokulam at their own background.
Chennai host Churchill
After a short resurgent period Churchill Brothers suffered two consecutive away defeats that have further jeopardised their chances of finishing in the top five once again.
Both the defeats came because of the late goals they conceded. While Arrows scored twice during the extra-time period, Neroca netted a 86th minute winner to leave the ‘Red Machines’ red-eyed in both the matches.
“Last two matches could have gone either way. In the Arrows match, we were in a winning position until the 90th minute. Two silly errors cost us two goals,” said coach Alfred Fernandes hoping his side will put an end to the trend of conceding late goals.
“It is the business end of the I-League and there are a lot of things involved in the I-League. The season end is always a scary thing. No team is relegated until the last match is played, he added.
Fernandes’ words are sure to inspire Chennai City who stand at the cusp of being relegated and need a win to lift themselves. They are placed at the bottom with 13 points after 15 games and have last won against Mohun Bagan over a month ago.