Kolkata Derby Special : Wedson & Plaza’s Romantic Football Makes East Bengal A Side To Beat
It had become more of a routine for long. Despite ringing in changes both at the managerial and the player level, East Bengal found themselves chasing the title but never being able to wrap their arms around the coveted I-League trophy.
From Trevor Morgan to Marcos Falopa; from Armando Colaco to Eelco Schattorie to Biswajit Bhattacharya; the Red and Gold have completed an entire circle with the return of Englishman Trevor Morgan back at the helm in wake of getting to the top and helping East Bengal claim their maiden I-League trophy.
At the start of the new season the Englishman was given the reins of the club and the 60-year-old was quick in giving the side his touch. A coach that likes complete control of the team and the related decisions, Morgan selected a bunch of players from the current squad that will form the core of his side and identifying the areas that need redressal, Morgan formed a list of players to be brought in.
In came the likes of Nikhil Poojary and Romeo Fernandes to help add teeth to the right wing. Rowlin Borges’ performances in the midfield were impressive in the ISL and with Mehtab Hossain not getting any younger, Morgan brought in the 24-year-old midfielder to provide more depth to the key position in Morgan’s play.
In what was a complete overhaul, Morgan signed his set of foreign players which saw the arrival of Ivan Bukenya, Wedson Anselme, Willis Plaza and Kyrgyzstan forward Ildar Amirov. But with the Kyrgyz failing to impress or adapt was shown the door. In latest developments, young Aussie striker Chris Payne is set to occupy the 4th spot.
Seemingly missing another dimension in his attack and not sure of the Kyrgyz forward, Morgan brought back Robin Singh to add another dimension to the East Bengal side.
The Red and Golds began their season on a disappointing note as they only managed to draw against Aizawl, courtesy of a last gasp goal by defender Bukenya. Given East Bengal could not field their strongest side with Bukenya and Plaza both on the bench, there were bound to be early struggles. Plaza had landed in India just about 48 hours ago and needed some time to adapt to the conditions, style and form chemistry. Robin Singh was not even in the fray.
But with time on their hands, there was no looking back for the Red and Golds. They bounced back strongly and the Carribbean duo of Plaza and Wedson gave early signs of how this partnership could develop into a lethal one for the Kolkata side. DSK Shivajians were at the receiving end as the magic was starting to build.
Even in the next game against Churchill, though the duo of Plaza and Wedson failed to get on the scoresheet, their contribution helped others take full advantage of the pressure being exerted by them and drawing away defenders.
Another young gun was looking promising and contributed further in the game against the Churchill Brothers as he assisted Haokip for East Bengal’s opener. Poojary has gone down as a standout player and given he is also in the U22 category, he gives East Bengal the cutting edge.
The big game had now arrived as the Red and Golds were set to host defending champions Bengaluru FC. Experts had pipped this game to be a fair measure of where the title might be headed. Having gone down early on in the game, East Bengal were being dominated. But that wasn’t going to be the case for long. Despite Plaza spurning chances, Wedson and Plaza had given enough trouble to the travellers for them to be worried. And despite some delightful football from the duo, the hosts were found chasing the game until Wedson exchanged a few passes with Ralte to draw defenders towards him, giving Ralte space to cross and help East Bengal with the equaliser.
Plaza and Wedson combined several times again to cut open a resolute Bengaluru FC defence but the Trinidad and Tobago man seemed to have left his goal scoring boots at home. The Red and Golds still found the winner, courtesy of the returning Robin Singh who made merry from a mistake at the back by Bengaluru FC.
The next three games were further testament to the romantic football Wedson Anselme and Plaza had brought to the fore in the I-League. Minerva Punjab were thrashed 5-0, while a competent Mumbai FC side was sent packing 2-0. The tight Chennai City FC side too got a 3-0 drubbing, thanks to cutting edge football from the duo.
It was easy against the newcomers Minerva Punjab as they left too many holes, allowing East Bengal to look even more dangerous and the duo made most of it with Wedson netting his first hattrick in the I-League and Plaza getting off the mark as well. But the real testament of the quality of the duo came against Mumbai FC where Wedson continued to deliver defence splitting passes while Plaza gave account of his finishing prowess as he netted two quality goals against a resolute looking Mumbai FC backline and quality keeper in Kattimani.
There last game saw Chennai City FC packing their defence and playing narrow to deny any space to the home side. But Wedson and Plaza are made of something else. While Wedson struck the opener with a quality left foot striker, he found space from nowhere to find Plaza who despite being tightly marked got his shot on goal and into the back of the net.
This is a stark difference in this East Bengal side. While Plaza is extremely dynamic and goes past his markers with utter ease, Wedson is capable of not just scoring himself but also playing defence splitting passes and his ability to find even the most minimal of space puts East Bengal in pole position.
Though there are no favourites in a Derby and it’s all about handling the pressure and delivering, this would be a great test for the likes of Plaza, Wedson and even Poojary who would be playing their first Derby. This game could also be crucial in deciding who takes pole position in the title race with Bengaluru FC in a struggle of their own.
The fantastic duo, a strong bench and no AFC commitments, East Bengal look like the side to beat now and are seemingly on their way to something glorious this season.