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EB's winter of discontent gets longer

Lawrence's winner gave Clifford Chukuwama a rare opportunity to sport a relieved look for the first time in the competition, reports Abhishek Hore.

sports Updated: Jan 06, 2008 12:34 IST
Abhishek hore

They were in the same boat till Friday. But Adjei Lawrence turned out to be the solitary reaper when it mattered most - his tap-in seven minutes after the break - meant Sporting Clube de Goa sailed over East Bengal in the I-League table, and breathed some life into their campaign.

While Lawrence's winner gave Sporting coach Clifford Chukuwama a rare opportunity to sport a relieved look for the first time in the competition, his counterpart Subroto Bhattacharya's misery continued after another evening of hurt.

The Kolkata outfit seems to have forgotten the art of winning, and the former NFL champion's shockingly poor display here at the Nehru Stadium on Saturday now leaves them in jeopardy. "We are struggling and it's difficult to find a way out of the rut," East Bengal and India defender Syed Rahim Nabi said.

Insipid and unimaginative for the major part of the game, East Bengal were lucky to lose by the narrowest of margins. Had it not been for Subrata Pal's brilliance under the bar, the match would have ended in humiliation for the three-time NFL champions.

Obagbemiro Elijah's on-the-run hit from the edge of the box seven minutes into the game seemed to be heading towards the East Bengal post, but Pal stretched himself enough to send the ball into safety. Elijah tested the four-man East Bengal defence with alarming regularity in the first 45 minutes, but failed to find the net.

It was Lawrence who finally made Sporting smile when he slipped in a Denzil Franco header from inside the box.

Bhattacharya's team clearly failed to get a foothold in the midfield while the strikers too were unable to convert whatever little opportunities they were fed with. The defence looked shaky as usual with the semi-fit Surkumar Singh not being able to play his normal game. Leading the side, Nabi tried his best to combat the combined onslaught of Elijah and Lawrence, but one-man show seldom helps in a team game like football.

Quietly seething in the end, Bhattacharya said his "foreign players were not delivering."

"Their performances were not up to the mark," he said. "The confidence is low and we can't win matches if we play like this," Bhattacharya said.

On the other hand, Sporting looked far more impressive, their confident approach belaying the poor record they are carrying in the league. "It's not like we are playing badly. We are improving with every match," Chukuwama said.

"Today the move to play Wilton Gomes at right-back instead of the midfield also helped us a lot," he added.