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Dempo ready for Safa showdown

October 06, 2008 20:30 IST

Armed with inputs from East Bengal midfielder Alvito D'Cunha, who played against Safa SC earlier this year, Dempo are looking to maintain their good run when they take on their West Asian rivals in the first leg of the AFC Cup semi-final at the Sports City Stadium in Lebanon on Tuesday.

Dempo made history when they became the first Indian club to reach the last-four stage of Asia's second tier club tournament.

They defeated Home United 4-3 in Singapore after a 1-1 draw in Hyderabad to book their berth in the semi-finals.

"We spoke to Alvito and enquired about Safa," Dempo coach Armando Colaco said from Beirut.

Alvito was part of the East Bengal side that lost 0-1 to Safa in Lebanon and drew 0-0 in Kolkata in the Group B league stage of the AFC Cup.

"Climax rang me up asking for video footage of Safa's match against East Bengal at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan. He also asked me about the Lebanese club," Alvito said.

"They have got good physique but don't have the ball players. They are not that skillful.

"Notwithstanding Safa's win over Perak, the way Dempo are playing at the moment, they have a good chance of reaching the final," the Goan midfielder added.

Colaco said he is hoping for a positive outcome.

"We will be fighting for a point and even if things do go wrong, I am sure we will be in a position to recover," the coach said before leaving for practice at the main stadium.

"The boys are focused and if they play to potential then there shouldn't be any worry," Colaco said.

Goalkeeper Abhijit Mondal has recovered from a thigh strain and the coach hinted that the team which played in the second leg of the AFC Cup quarter-final against Home United is likely to start. Peter Carvalho's return too should lend solidity to the midfield.

Dempo reached Beirut late last night and did some light stretching in the morning. They also spent time watching video footage of Safa's matches.

"The temperature's around 27 degrees which is good for the game. The food's a bit worrying but as professionals I am sure my players would overcome that problem."

The Goan outfit, though, cannot afford to take Safa SC lightly. They walloped Perak FC 7-0 in another quarter-final which includes a 5-0 hammering of the Malaysian side in the return leg tie in Lebanon.

Colaco's boys will have to keep a close watch on Safa's three foreign recruits who have been in prime form in this tournament.

Moreover, Mahesh Gawli and his colleagues in Dempo's defence will have to be watchful of the 25-year-old Rony Azar who fired in three goals against Perak in the two-legged quarter-finals.

Dempo did not have a good start to the second edition of the I-League, losing to JCT 1-2 despite dominating proceedings.

They paid the price of the missed chances by the strikers though Colaco had said he was not disappointed by the loss to JCT as the AFC Cup semi-final was the team's focus.

"The whole team is playing well so I am not much worried," Colaco added.

Referee Lee Gi Young of South Korea will officiate the match.

The teams lock horns in the return leg in India on October 21.

The squads:

Dempo: Abhijit Mondal, John Dias, Climax Lawrence (captain), Ranty Martins, Roberto Mendes Silva, Anthony Perreira, Clifford Miranda, Samir Naik, Valeriano Rebello, Mboyo Iyomi, Mahesh Gawli, Creson Antao, Nascimento Silveira, Joaquim Abranches, VP Satish Kumar, Nicolau Borges, Dominic Noronha, Joe Rodrigues, Peter Carvalho, Tyson Caiado.

Safa SC: Nazih Tay, Ali Al Saadi, Milat Pierre Ploycarpe, Mohamad Korhani, Hussein Tahan, Rony Azar, Hamid Termina, Amer Khan, Mba Derick Ebi, Ramez Dayoub, Hamze Abboud, Abdallah Taleb, Omar Ouaida, Mahmoud El Zoughbi, Rami Kaddoura, Ali Khalil, Ali El Haress, Mohammad Kassas, Khodor Salame, Prince Bobby, Bernand Mbassi.

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