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First win for EB’s new coach

Edmilson strike brings the Kolkata outfit’s campaign back on track, reports Rajeeb Mukherjee.
Hindustan Times | By Rajeeb Mukharjee, Kolkata
UPDATED ON MAR 18, 2008 11:04 PM IST

First win for EB’s new coach

Add Ahli Sana’a to the list of foreign teams East Bengal have done well against. It was not spectacular football that did it but some sensible stuff that did it.

Having lost 0-1 to Lebanon’s Safa FC in their AFC Cup Group B opener, East Bengal needed full points on Tuesday to infuse life into their campaign. In circumstances somewhat fortuitous they managed that when Ghanaian Ibe Gift’s first-timer took a wicked deflection off Ahmed Khalil and fell for Edmilson Marques on the edge of the box. The Brazilian, mostly under-utilised till then, rifled a right-footer that hit the roof of the net. The goal, after the half-hour mark, relived the tension of coach Aloke Mukherjee, who tasted success for the first time in five matches.

Ahli Sana’a have eight national players but the fare dished was pedestrian. A number of them played in New Delhi on March 1, 2006, making India’s 0-3 drubbing seem even more unrealistic than it did then.

Despite this being the fag end of the season, East Bengal showed plenty of purpose. And leading them was Syed Rahim Nabi who fought for every ball. Playing just behind Edmilson, Nabi’s sprightliness made life difficult for the visitors.

Nabi was also denied by goalkeeper Mauadh Abdul Kalej following a well-worked corner-kick by Alvito d’Cunha who was brilliant with set pieces though East Bengal could have done with men at the near post. But for an alert goalkeeper whose block came off a defender’s back and went out, D’Cunha nearly scored with a corner-kick.

In front, East Bengal ought to have pressed for more goals but were undone by their lack of fitness. A couple of defensive errors almost handed the visitors the equaliser. M. Suresh, who looked solid otherwise, erred in intercepting Adil al Salami, who evaded a reckless lunge from Majek Bolaji only to see goalkeeper Subrata Pal foil the attempt.

This and a couple of longrangers were the only attempts on goal from Ahli Sana’a who, as coach Sabah Jumah said, were suffering from the heat and humidity of a March afternoon.

Bencherifa joins Bagan for a year

EAST BENGAL wanted him and so did some of the other clubs in India and abroad. But Mohun Bagan showed 'greater desire' and that was what prompted Karim Bencherifa to join the green-and-maroons next season. The Moroccan, who helped Churchill Brothers's bunch of youngsters rise from anonymity to national spotlight in two years, signed for Mohun Bagan in New Delhi on Tuesday.

"Leaving Churchill Brothers was emotional for me and my family," said Bencharifa. "There was a lot of sadness all around the Churchill Brothers camp after they learnt that I was leaving. Churchill Alemao has been good to me but as a professional coach, I have to move on," Bencherifa said.

He is not wary of the pressure at Mohun Bagan, saying he thrives in it. "I have worked in Morocco where football is like a religion. True, the pressure is different from place but I have what it takes to handle it," said the coach who intends going home before taking charge of the club from June 1.

He is excited with the chance to work with players like Bhaichung Bhutia and Jose Barreto and feels that the team has a good mix of young and experience, something he lacked in Churchill Brothers. "If we had a little bit more experience, we would have been champions."

And the coach is also aware that in a club like Mohun Bagan, performance is what matters. "If I don't give results, I deserve to be fired. I accept that as a professional coach," said Bencharifa.

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