A tough opening match, a strong opponent in ATKMohun Bagan, and a 0-2 defeat.
SC East Bengal’s ISL debut might not have gone as per plan, but there were things head coach Robbie Fowler could be happy about.
The Red and Golds were the last side to enter the 2020-21 ISL season and had the least preparation time.
“I’m not satisfied with the result,” Fowler said after the game.
“Performance-wise, we were okay. For a team that has been together for two-and-a-half weeks, I think we put in a good performance. There was not much (of a difference) between us (and them).
“We’re talking about a team who were champions last year and we more than matched them at times, especially in the first half, where we put in a great performance,” the Liverpool legend said.
In football, tables can turn around real quick. Fowler’s team learned that the hard way in the second half. Both sides fashioned chances but in the end, it was ATKMB that converted them and sealed the three points.
The lack of match fitness was a factor behind SCEB failing to maintain the momentum that they had in the first half.
Given that Fowler was helming a revamped squad that had relatively less time to gel, many had expected ATKMB to dominate their opponents. However, SCEB surprised the cynics from the first whistle.
The scoreline may show a comprehensive defeat for SCEB but the game was much closer than it suggested. They outplayed the Mariners in the first half and dominated possession.
However, a goal eluded them thanks to their lack of sharpness in front of goal.
“It was our first game and they had already played a game. Fitness-wise, they were a bit sharper than us, maybe towards the end,” Fowler said.
Anthony Pilkington and Matti Steinmann were among the East Bengal players, who impressed in the defeat. And when ready with a full fit squad, fans could expect Fowler’s side to improve after glimpses of promise in their opener.
“It’s not been the most ideal preparation,” he said. “But we’ve accepted it, adapted to it. We were incredibly late coming here, so we have not trained together. But the way we played, we proved we can get better and better.
“We are new, we have been together for a short space of time but we move on,” said Fowler.
The turnaround time will have to be quick as the Kolkata giants face Mumbai City next on Tuesday.