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Bagan looking to extend supremacy over East Bengal
November 09, 2004 18:24 IST
Mohun Bagan will strive to maintain their recent domination over East Bengal when the arch-rivals clash in Wednesday's Durand Cup football final after a decade.
Bagan are one up this season, having pipped the National Football League champions via the tie-breaker in the semi-finals of the IFA Shield in Kolkata, but their opponents are determined to avenge the defeat in what promises to be a high voltage clash.
Bagan seems to have their nose in front, going by the semi-final performance, which saw them dethrone Salgaocar before East Bengal scraped past JCT.
Lining up for Bagan will be the likes of Tomba Singh, voted India's best footballer, Mehtab Hossain and Dharamjit Singh together with Brazilian defender Eduwardo Chacun and Nigerian James Agbo Ugwu.
Challenging them are India's champion club and former ASEAN Cup winners who boast of having striker Earnest Jeremiah (on loan from Ever Ready club), Brazilian Douglas Santos and S Malsawmtluanga in their ranks.
Some of the players in both the clubs have just returned from national duty when India beat Kuwait 3-2 in Kuwait last week.
The last time the famous colours -- maroon-green and red-yellow -- met in the final in Delhi was in 1994 when Bagan emerged winners, riding on new recruit Jo Paul Ancheri's goal in the second half.
Sixteen-time winners Bagan last won the Durand Cup in 2000 when they beat Mahindra United on golden goal while last year's runners-up East Bengal's triumph came in 2002-03.
The main worry for the footballers, who will be battling for the title in the world's third oldest tournament which began in 1888, will be the worn out turf at the Ambedkar stadium.
"It would be a very tough match but the ground is a big problem," East Bengal's star player Douglas said.
"You will have the best footballers in the country playing for both the clubs tomorrow but they can produce their best form only on a good ground. This one is very hard and lacks enough grass cover," he said.
But the Brazilian, who is enjoying his third season with East Bengal, predicted a battle royale in the midfield.
"Bagan's strong point is their midfield. They have some very good players. Tomba is a very good player and Edu is a very experienced defender," he said.
"The team which will play power football will win. Even simple mistakes will make a difference as both teams have a lot of good players. We will win if we don't play like yesterday," he said about their scrappy entry into the final.
Fifteen-time champions East Bengal will badly miss the services of injured Deepak Mondal and versatile winger Syed Rahim Nabi, who will sit out the final after picking two yellow cards. Nabi was the one who saved his team with a 71st minute header against JCT in the semi-finals.
Both teams also boast of talented goalkeepers, with Bagan netting TFA boy Subrata Pal to counter the experience of Rajat Ghosh Dastidar.