Barabati Stadium, Cuttack
Live on Zee Sports: 29.09.2010
The first semi-final of Fed Cup 2010 pits two of the most exciting teams in the tournament. East Bengal takes on Churchill Brothers in what promises to be a clash of attacking prowess.
Foreign coaches have a dodgy record in Indian football. The likes of Danny MacLean, Karim Bencharifa, David Booth or Clifford Chukuwama have often gone empty handed in terms of trophies. East Bengal’s new coach, former development coach of English Premier League side Hull City, Trevor Morgan will look to change that track record. His team has promised a lot till date. The Red and Golds, who have gone through a couple of indifferent seasons, look like a rejuvenated force.
Much credit of their sparkling display will go to Morgan. His ploy of fielding an attacking 4-3-3 with incessant forward movement has bore rich fruit. East Bengal have not relied on aimless long balls, their preference has been playing sweet ground passes and deliciously floated crosses from the wings. They have focused on elaborate build-ups before releasing a striker with a sudden through-ball. They won all 3 games in group stages – the only team to do so in this year’s tournament.
Australian player, Tolgay Ozbey has been the engine behind East Bengal’s attack. He put on a virtuoso performance against Air India in first game, scoring two goals. Mehtab Hussein, playing the “Makalele Role” is another irreplaceable player. He acts as a defensive shield and at the same time plays the role of a deep lying playmaker being the starting point of most East Bengal’s attacks.
East Bengal’s attacking engine : Tolgay
Tolgay is ably supported by Penn Orji upfront – who has been trusted by the British coach to play the roaming midfielder role just behind the strickers. Penn has been in prime form in both Kolkata league as well as Fed Cup. He has scored 2 goals till now, including the winning strike against HAL. The third striker in EB’s trident is Robin Singh. Singh, one of the stars in West Bengal’s Santosh Trophy win, is not the most versatile or technically gifted player. His limitations are perfectly covered up by his tremendous work-rate and a lethal left foot. Budiram Tudu can act as a super-sub.
Ever reliable Sandip Nandi will guard East Bengal’s goal. The defensive line will be marshaled by Nirmal Chhetri and Nigerian Uga Okpara. Full-backs Nouba Singh on right and Soumik Dey on left will offer width to a narrow midfield.
Churchill Brothers haven’t done that well till now. They drew two of their group games, qualifying ahead of Chirag United by goal difference. They failed to beat newcomers SESA Academy. The 4-0 thumping of hapless Viva Kerala in the opening game ultimately paved their way to the last four.
Their main strength, like always will be the star striker Odafa Okalie. Odafa, the highest paid foreigner in Indian football has been one of the most lethal finishers in recent times. His amazing strike rate enabled him to get the top scorer award in i-League on three consecutive occasions. He also led Churchill to their maiden i-League title in 2008-09. Odafa has started scoring goals from the word “go” in Fed Cup. He bagged a brace against Viva Kerala, while scoring another goal in the 1-1 draw with SESA. Odafa is a striker who can score from half-chances and he is extremely prolific.
East Bengal’s defence has not been tested till date. Most teams have been washed away by the deluge of attacking moves. Odafa will fancy his chances against this defensive line. He is also a big match player and often delivers in crucial encounter. Odafa’s heroics in final of IFA Shield and Durand Cup in 2009 (both against Mohun Bagan) earned the Goan club two trophies last season.
Churchill has been considerably weakened after losing players to Indian National Team Camp. Arindam Bhattacharya, Steven Dias, Gourmangi Singh as well as Mohammad Rafi are missing. In their absence, the onus is on MP Shakeer and Khemtang Paite to provide able support to Odafa.
Possible starting XI
East Bengal : Sandip Nandi, Naoba Singh, Nirmal Chhetri, Uga Okpara, Soumik Dey, Reisangmi Vasum, Mehtab Hossain, Penn Ikechukwu Orji, Harmanjot Singh Khabra, Robin Singh, Tolgay Ozbey
Churchill Brothers : Lalit Thapa, Rowilson Rodrigues, Denzil Franco, Robert Lalthalma, Dharmaraj Ravanan, MP Shakeer, Khemtang Paite, Dan Ito, Koko Sakibo, Charan Rai, Odafe Onyeke Okolie
TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For
Tolgay Ozbey (East Bengal):
East Bengal’s Australian recruit was the golden boot winner in New South Wales Premier League last season. He has adjusted really quickly to Indian football. Tolgay has been one of the main architects behind East Bengal’s wonderful attacking play. He links up well with Penn and Robin Singh while scoring goals when he gets a chance. East Bengal has an enviable history when it comes to foreign players, Tolgay can very well be a welcome addition to the list.
TheHardTackle’s Blast From The Past
East Bengal 3-2 Churchill [I-League 2009-10]
East Bengal 3-2 Churchill
Expect a goal scoring thriller here. Both the teams possess lethal attacking prowess. Churchill’s defense is inexperienced, while their East Bengal counterparts are largely untested. It may possibly go down as a fight which would be decided in favor of the team conceding less number of goals. East Bengal have a upper hand here because of former India no.1 goalkeeper Sandip Nandy. In the absence of regular keeper Arindam Bhattacharya, Churchill might struggle with stop-gap replacement Lalit Thapa, who has been unconvincing so far.
[PS: TheHardTackle’s Live Interactive Updates for the 1st Semi Final will be available from 5:45 PM onwards on Wednesday 29th Sep]