East Bengal aim to return to winning ways

Aizawl, Feb 19: Stopped in their tracks after two back-to-back home draws, table-toppers East Bengal would look to getting back to winning ways and pull away from arch-rivals Mohun Bagan when they take on spirited Aizawl FC in a tenth round I-League match at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here on Monday.

Mohun Bagan are level on points with East Bengal after registering a home win over DSK Shivajians on Saturday. Both teams now have 21 points in their kitty but Bagan will have a game in hand as East Bengal go into their tenth game.

Stalemates against Bagan and Shillong Lajong in Siliguri meant the Trevor Morgan-coached side have dropped four points in their last two matches.

It won’t be smooth sailing against surprise packages Aizawl who under seasoned coach Khalid Jamil have punched above their weight, winning five out of their nine games and moreover being invincible at home.

Aizawl, who reached the Federation Cup fil last year, have won four and tied one of their five matches at home.

They begin the back end of the league with three consecutive home games — against East Bengal, Cheni City FC and Mumbai FC. If they can win all three, they could be well on their way to the top of the table going into the home stretch of the league.

But Jamil knows that their opponents on Monday won’t be easy meat.

“It is the most difficult game,” he said at the pre-match press conference on Sunday.

“We are playing a good side. We have to be careful.”

Morgan too sounded a note of caution when asked about his rivals.

“We are expecting a very difficult game,” he said.

Aizawl held East Bengal to a draw in their first meeting in Barasat, West Bengal.

“In the first game we did not have many foreigners except Wedson (Anselme). We played a system we did not want to. The team will be completely different tomorrow (Monday),” the Englishman added.

Asked about Chris Payne’s underwhelming display on debut against Lajong, Morgan said the Australian needs time to get back into the groove as he has just returned from the pre-season break.

“Chris has just come back from pre-season in Australia while Willis (Plaza) was playing. So there will be difference in match fitness. We are working on Chris’s fitness to try and bring him to our level,” Morgan said. IANS