Panchkula: How times change within a span of 24 months can be found in East Bengal’s match against Minerva Punjab — in a potential title clash encounter here on Tuesday.
When the sides last met in 2016 around a similar time, it was the Red and Golds chasing their maiden I-League title while Minerva fought to stay alive in the top division. That fretful day East Bengal dumped the Punjabi warriors 5-0 infront of their home crowd but still could not win the title.
Almost a year down the line, they still are chasing their maiden I-League crown and once again face Minerva, who surprisingly lead the table six points clear of their main threat after same no of games.
East Bengal are third standing on 23 points after 13 games, while MPFC stand comfortably on top with 19 points.
The Red and Golds however will take faith from their performance at home where they rallied back into the contest after going behind twice, to hold Minerva to a 2-2 draw, but will hope to add a goal more if they are to take all three points from the lion’s den — Tau Devi Lal Stadium.
“They are playing very good especially, at their home. They have 100% record so this match will not be easy for us but still, there is a long way to go,” said head coach Khalid Jamil whose faced a lot of flak after failing to beat them at home.
But his ambitions are nothing less than the title. “We are 100% going for the title. We must think positive and we must get positive results. Everyone plays the game with a full heart, hence the results come,” added the title winning coach.
Minerva on the other come into the fixture after a hard-fought win against Shillong Lajong, who were clearly deprived of a legitimate goal and could have easily turned the tables on them.
“In my opinion, every match is important because we have not won the league until now. We might have to go to the last match of the league. So every match is final for us and East Bengal is very competitive,” said their coach Khogen Singh.
Incessant rain at Minerva’s home town meant that the ground is heavily wet and it has kept Khogen worried. Whose side are just a win away from almost securing the title, that too in only their second season in the top division. But he didn’t back off. “We will go for three points tomorrow,” he added.
Neither team could train on Monday due to the heavy outfield. On Sunday they had training sessions at the Minerva academy ground in Mohali. “But today even that was not possible,” said Henna Singh Bajaj, director – Minerva Punjab.
Both Jamil and Singh earlier played together for Air India under Bimal Ghosh. That team in the 90s will regularly exceed expectations and jump above their height to drill out results and come Tuesday both Jamil and Singh, now transformed into coaches will want their teams to drill out results — that could go a long way in deciding the champions.
Meanwhile apart from both the club’s, it will also be an afternoon of redemption for Armand Bazie, who was released by East Bengal after a series of lackluster performances but has since than joined Minerva Punjab and starred in the match against Lajong.
“We will see it tomorrow itself. If we win tomorrow then losing him was a good decision,” said Jamil. But if they lose than to say their title aspirations are over will be the obvious.