IFA Shield 2018: Group A reaches crunch time

MOHAMMEDAN SC vs EAST BENGAL – 2:45 pm at Barasat Stadium

Mohammedan Sporting Club meet Group A leaders East Bengal on Wednesday in an U-19 IFA Shield encounter knowing they have to win big to give themselves any chance of advancing to the knockout stage of the competition.

It has been a tale of two very different games for Mohammedan SC. In their opening fixture against a strong ATK side, the Young Panthers exceeded all expectations by holding ATK to a draw. Throughout this game, Mohammedan SC exhibited the lethal combination of solid defense and electric counter attack. Ultimately, they looked like the better side in this game, with the real surprise being that ATK was able to hold on for the draw.

Their second game against SAIL Football Academy, however, was a completely different story. The side were sluggish, and could not keep up with the pacey SAIL attackers, resulting in a 4-0 loss for the Young Panthers. After such a promising start, for Mohammedan SC to exit the tournament now would be a massive shame.

Mohammedan SC can still pass the group, with a big victory at Barasat Stadium. That said, Young Panthers might not be facing East Bengal at the latter’s 100% level. Rumours circulating East Bengal might rest some of their key players, considering that they have already assured themselves of participation in the knockout stage of the tournament.

However, even a win may not be enough for Mohammad Sahid’s charges, as they will need to keep an eye on SAIL’s meeting with ATK at East Bengal Ground. If SAIL win, Mohammedan SC will go out. If ATK draw or win, it will all come down to goal difference.

Whereas East Bengal have enjoyed a dominant U-19 IFA Shield campaign thus far. The side currently sit comfortably atop the group after two wins from both their opening games. This also confirmed their qualification to the semifinals.

Throughout both fixtures, East Bengal clearly seemed to be the better side. Their incredible midfield corps ensured that they held more than their fair share of possession. Lalchhanhima, in particular, has looked like one of the best players in the tournament so far. Their defensive corps have shown to be incredibly solid throughout the tournament. A strong performance is expected from them despite rumours that the side will rest some key players to guarantee their fitness for the semifinal.

SAIL FOOTBALL ACADEMY VS ATK – 2:45 pm at East Bengal Ground

SAIL, on the other hand, will be inspired to avoid the wooden spoon in order to secure their spot in semifinals of the competition when they face ATK.

Following their opening 6-1 defeat to East Bengal, SAIL showed plenty of heart and determination to overcome Mohammedan SC 4-0 in their second group encounter. On the back of that convincing victory, SAIL will be feeling confident about their semifinal chances.

SAIL have looked competitive and organised at both ends of the park in their previous match and coach Trijit Das will be hoping for another strong performance from his charges against a side which he believes will provide a stern challenge.

On the other hand, the equation for ATK is simple in this one – they have no choice but to win and score as many goals as possible. However, ATK know that three points may not be enough if Mohammedan SC pull off a win over East Bengal in the other match. Should that happen, ATK and Mohammedan SC would be tied on four points each and the team that go through would be decided on goal difference.


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