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Win continues to elude East Bengal as scoring woes haunt them against FC Goa

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Robbie Fowler’s side missed many chances as they failed to register a victory despite a dominant performance against FC Goa 10…

It’s not easy to have a dominant show against teams like Mumbai City FC and FC Goa who like to keep the ball and attack. But East Bengal managed to top Mumbai City in a half in their last game, then controlled proceedings for the majority of the game against the Gaur on Friday.

For a team that have had the worst possible start to their first Indian Super League (ISL) campaign, losing four of their opening five matches, East Bengal have shown increased confidence over the past month.

The Rouge et Or are a much more confident side and seem fearless in their approach. They love to control a game at their leisure and look fluid while building the game from behind. With Bright Enobakhare in their ranks now, the club appear to carry a greater attack threat.

Yet victory seems to elude East Bengal as they are unable to convert the chances they create. A major reason for their debauchery up front was the lack of a number nine in their squad.

On Friday, Fowler fielded his side in a 3-4-1-2 formation where he deployed Anthony Pilkington and Jeje Lalpekhlua as attackers and Enobakhare operating in the hole. With all due respect to Pilkington, who has been one of East Bengal’s best foreign signing this season, the Ireland international is not center-forward through trade.

Pilkington has flanked his whole life and it shows in his play. The forward looks very comfortable as he retreats to midfield to win balls and create chances, but when ‘this is conversion in front of goal, Pilkington struggled.

The former Norwich City man has managed to score just one goal in 12 appearances this season. The Rouge et Or had a golden opportunity to quickly take the lead and put Goa under pressure when Narayan Das fell into the box after a challenge from Mohammed Ali, but Pilkington’s kick far exceeded.

Jeje Lalpekhlua, on the other hand, is far from his best at the moment and, with the exception of a few quality passes, hasn’t done much in the opposing box. Fowler tried to field young Harmanpreet Singh in the second half and the 19-year-old showed a lot of exuberance but couldn’t do what was necessary.

It should also be noted that East Bengal were playing their seventh game of a difficult eight-game series in 29 days and that fatigue was evident. However, they only lost once in this race, which is positive.

Anthony Pilkington, FC Goa vs. East Bengal

FC Goa were deprived of their two foreign center-backs (Ivan Gonzalez and James Donachie) due to injury and suspension. So, with an all-Indian defense, the Gaur didn’t want to take too many risks and leave their backline exposed. As a result, they took a step back and tried to loot the East Bengal box only on meters.

The Gaurs had taken the lead against the run of the game in the first half and held on until the 65th minute when their captain Edu Bedia was sent off. The Spaniard unnecessarily made a mistake on Pilkington who invited a second reservation of the night.

Bedia is a vital cog in the Goa midfielder and missing him against a fit NorthEast United side is a major loss for the Gaurs. The Spaniard, being a senior player and the team captain, should be more cautious as the team is already missing the services of many important players like Brandon Fernandes and James Donachie.

The victory was not an absolute necessity for the Gaurs who happily sit in the top half of the table and therefore settled for just one point. East Bengal, on the other hand, need as many wins as possible to get close to a place for the play-offs.