ISL 2023-24: Punjab FC continue quest for first ISL win against East Bengal

Kolkata, Dec 8 (IANS): Punjab FC’s pursuit for their maiden win in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season continues as they head to the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata to face East Bengal SC on Saturday.

They may find the going difficult as East Bengal are on a high after putting five goals past NorthEast United FC to record their biggest-ever win in the competition history.

They had made an inspired run to the Durand Cup final before their ISL campaign and it is now proved that they are moving in the right direction. They started the ISL season brightly too, however, a brief phase struck where they were unable to break free from the shackles to cross over the finishing line.

However, a rejuvenated unit took to the field after the international break, with the entire team delivering a spotless performance against NorthEast United.

However, Punjab FC has shown that they aren’t bothered by such factors, taking the attack to Bengaluru FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in their last game and scoring thrice in the first half itself.

The ISL debutants produced one breathtaking goal after another, reflecting the sheer individual brilliance brimming through that squad. However, they need to manage their games and defend their leads better, which is the single most important element that could determine the outcome of tomorrow’s game.

The home team has the opportunity to make the last game the turning point of their season. Despite positive results before, they had never secured a victory of this nature, where they rolled over the opponents and left no stone unturned, much to the delight of the fans in the stands.

Cuadrat must look to build upon that and consolidate their position in the points table with three points against Punjab FC, whose defensive woes have been visible multiple times this season.

The fact that East Bengal FC are off to their best-ever start in the ISL needs no telling, with this being the first time that they have a positive goal difference (+3) seven games into the season.

Their tally of eight points after these games is also the most that they have garnered at this stage of any of their campaigns in the competition.

There is a visible technical improvement in their gameplay, having completed 26.5% of their crosses from open play this season, which is the highest amongst all teams. It has allowed their wingers to thrive, with the likes of Nandhakumar Sekar and Naorem Mahesh Singh starring with impactful individual performances.

After their showing in the last game, Cuadrat should back his boys to get three points from this encounter, making the most of the situation that Punjab FC find themselves in.

Punjab FC are still adapting to life in the top tier, but an inspired performance in Bengaluru must give them significant confidence to adopt a similarly proactive approach in the backyard of East Bengal FC.

What worked for Vergetis’ men in that match was they were fearless, and that showed with the belief with which they moved the ball higher up on the field and explored spaces in and around the Bengaluru FC backline.

The forwards were given the freedom to take shots from distance if they liked, and all things fell in place for them to have a first half as perfect as they could have imagined.

The fact that they could not hold the defensive unit together in the final 45 minutes is a different story, and though learning must be taken from it, Vergetis should look to reinforce the team with self-belief with the way they pushed Bengaluru FC back in the first half of that game. No team has taken more than eight games to register their first win in the ISL.

In fact, East Bengal did so in eight games too in the 2020-21 campaign. Some strengthening at the back coupled with dynamism upfront, along with a neat finish to the game could pave the way for Punjab FC to get the inaugural victory of ISL 2023-24.



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Title: ISL 2023-24: Punjab FC continue quest for first ISL win against East Bengal

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