I-League leaders East Bengal lost 1-2 to Churchill Brothers, a result that means new coach Derrick Pereira has notched up a hat-trick of wins in four games he has managed. Churchill Brothers stay sixth on 15 points but that Pereira’s team beat Mohun Bagan in the previous round is proof of the kind of turnaround he has got in less than one month.
With an all-Indian backline and three imports, Pereira organised the team defensively well enough to deny the hosts after leading 2-0 through Anthony Wolfe (6th) and Ghanefo Kromah (34th). Christopher Payne pulled one back in the 66th. Anwar Ali’s header in the 84th minute thudded into the horizontal and that was the closest East Bengal, who stay on 27 after 13 games, came to equalising.
For the first time in this year’s competition, East Bengal trailed by a brace. The goals highlighted that the lack of mobility in East Bengal’s central defence couldn’t be papered over anymore. Gurwinder Singh, substituted in the 78th minute against Shillong Lajong, made way for Anwar Ali in the starting list but it didn’t solve the problem.
A momentary lapse of concentration from Ali had Wolfe pouncing on it and making the most off a favourable ricochet from East Bengal goalie TP Rehenesh to put Churchill Brothers ahead. The Trinidad and Tobago international’s pace had Ivan Bukenya and Ali in more than a spot of bother.
Wolfe set up the second goal in the 34th after a cute dribble past Robin Gurung and then a pass threaded through the inner defence after colliding with Mehtab Hossain and beating Mohammed Rafique that was worth every paisa he cost. Liberian attacker Kroma scored beating Rehenesh comfortably.
Soon after, East Bengal replaced Rafique with Willis Plaza who was injured and had missed the 12th round tie against Lajong. It led to greater attacking intent. But the way Trevor Morgan lined up East Bengal showed his preference for the midfield diamond perhaps outweighs personnel available.
What may have also contributed to a poor first half for East Bengal was that they lined up Rowlin Borges as wide right. The central midfielder looked uncomfortable and was taken off for Lalrindika Ralte in the 51st. East Bengal then got Payne to drop back and Ralte as wide left with Nikhil Poojary being slotted into his usual wide right position. A better second half it produced but by then, the damage had been done.