Fatorda, Jan 9 (IANS) Hosts Sporting Clube de Goa will have a tough challenge on hand as they lock horns with East Bengal in an I-League encounter here on Sunday.
In the last five contests spanning over the previous two seasons, Sporting Clube de Goa have turned out to be victors on two occasions, East Bengal have won once and the other two games have finished on level terms. For the first time when the two sides met in the league last season, the score line read 1-1 with goals in each half by Ogba Kalu and Ranti Martins.
The second leg turned out to be an entertaining 2-2 draw with Anthony Wolfe scoring two goals for the Goan side and Ranti Martins netting a brace for East Bengal. On both occasions, Sporting came back from being in a losing position to draw the games. The two sides also met in a Federation Cup tie which finished 4-3 in favour of Sporting courtesy of a Victorino Fernandes hat-trick.
Sporting escaped relegation by a whisker last season, as they achieved a remarkable turnaround of form, after being winless in their first 13 fixtures. They picked up a whopping 16 points out of the possible 21 points in their last seven games to ensure they stayed put in the tourney this season. The club has invested in retaining the services of Nigerian striker Okolie Odafa and former Syrian international Mahmoud Amnah in midfield. With Miguel Garcia out with injury, another Nigerian in centre-back Loveday Okechukwu has been roped in.
East Bengal on the other hand will look to start the season on a high against a club that has always given them some discomfort. The Red and Golds from Kolkata finished fourth in the 2014-15 season as they failed to build on the previous summer’s second place finish. Biswajit Bhattacharya’s side will be upbeat heading into the new season after they won the Calcutta Football League (CFL) earlier last year. Bhattacharya’s side humbled arch-rivals Mohun Bagan 4-0 in the CFL as well.
The club released three of their foreign players from last season, including defender Milan Susak, midfielder Leo Bertos and striker Dudu Omagbemi. The trio has been replaced by Bello Rasaq and Do Dong Hyun with the fourth foreigner slot yet to be filled. Ranti Martins is the club’s third foreign player. East Bengal has completed a number of Indian signings from clubs across the country to bring together a well balanced unit.