Surprise! East Bengal need goals and they need it quick…
When Owen Coyle returned to his hotel room in Goa after a puzzling Indian Super League (ISL) game against East Bengal, he would have still been wondering how his team hadn’t managed to get three points against a team that played with 10 men for over an hour.
It was a match which Jamshedpur could and should have won. Even with 11 men on the pitch, Jamshedpur looked superior as a team but they were a tad too confident once the referee gave Eugeneson Lyngdoh his marching orders in the 25th minute.
The referee decided to spoil the party when he produced a second yellow to Lyngdoh for a challenge in which he had made contact with the ball first. It was a harsh decision and more importantly, one that threw Robbie Fowler’s gameplan out of the window.
84 – The second half of the #SCEBJFC match saw @sc_eastbengal attempt 84 passes, the lowest by any team during the second period in the current @IndSuperLeague campaign. Lacking. #LetsFootball #HeroISL pic.twitter.com/ByndGsVm4T
— OptaJeev (@OptaJeev) December 10, 2020
It was a solid battle in the midfield by both teams with and without the ball and there was a midfielder each for both teams that deserves credit. Alex Lima controlled the game for the Men of Steel and ensured that everything was under control in the centre of the park.
For East Bengal, it was the Matti Steinmann show in the midfield. The German midfielder has impressed for the Red and Golds despite their poor collective output in the first four matches and he will be one to watch out for as the season unravels for Fowler and co.
The issues for both teams were in the final third. Coyle shrugged off suggestions after the game that his team is too reliant on Nerijus Valskis for goals. But with the 2019-20 Golden Boot winner marked out of the game, there seemed to be no other way that Jamshedpur would come up with a goal from open play even with a man advantage. It is concerning for a team vying for a spot in the top four.
After three back-to-back defeats to start the season with, a point would be welcome for the Red and Golds, especially with Jamshedpur having looked more likely to score throughout the game with their possession and numerical advantage.
Fowler’s attacking woes have been the talk of the town since their first game and they just refuse to go away. He started with Balwant (Singh) upfront in the initial matches and Jeje Lalpekhlua was handed the opportunity on Thursday. The Mizo Sniper, who is returning from a long-term injury layoff, played 23 minutes in the 0-3 loss to Mumbai City and made his first start in over a year-and-a-half but looked completely out of touch.
He looked unfit for the gameplan that Fowler had in place and was lost whenever aerial balls were played to him with tall centre-backs, Peter Hartley and Stephen Eze, managing to easily deal with the threats.
East Bengal are yet to score a goal in 360 minutes of football in the ISL.
In the end, the Red and Golds did well to grind out a point – their first of the season – in difficult circumstances especially because the red card to Lyngdoh came across as harsh and unnecessary.
Would East Bengal have scored goals if the game been 11 vs 11? Understandably hypothetical but still unlikely. And that cluelessness in front of goals remains Robbie Fowler’s biggest concern after four rounds of 2020-21 ISL.