December 3, 2021

ISL 2020-21: Goalkeeping an area of concern for SC East Bengal

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Only two out of SC East Bengal’s four registered goalkeepers have prior experience in the ISL…

East Bengal have suffered on multiple occasions in the last decade due to their goalkeepers, famously missing out on the I-League titles multiple times in the business end of seasons, thanks in no small part to goalkeeping errors. 

Goalkeeping blunders and lack of quality custodians in their roster was one of the hindrances in East Bengal’s path of winning the much elusive I-League title.

This season as the Red and Golds embark on a new journey in the Indian Super League (ISL), once again a major area of concern is their goalkeeping department as none of their goalkeepers has enough ISL experience.

The Kolkata giants have registered four goalkeepers, Debjit Majumder, Sankar Roy, Mirshad Michu and Rafique Ali Sardar for the upcoming 2020-21 ISL season. While Majumder and Sardar have prior experience in ISL, Roy and Mirshad will make their debut in the top tier league this time. 

Out of all four keepers, Debjit Majumder has the maximum experience as he had earlier plied his trade with ATK for four seasons (2015, 2016, 2017-18 and 2018-19). Majumder has played a total of 29 ISL matches in four years where has conceded 32 goals, made 67 saves and managed to keep eight clean sheets.

His most memorable season in the ISL was in 2016 when he had appeared in 15 matches under Jose Francisco Molina and was instrumental in guiding the team to the ISL title. It must be noted that he played a key part in the penalty shootout against Kerala Blasters in the final, saving Cedric Hengbart’s kick.

His performance in 2016 had earned him a three-year contract with the Kolkata club but the Bengali custodian failed to replicate his performance in the next two seasons. In fact, Majumder did not appear in a single game after the 2017-18 season and was sent on loan to Mohun Bagan in the I-League in the final year of his contract.

Last season too, he could only play in just two I-League matches. After leaking four goals against Churchill Brothers in the second match of the league, Majumder lost his place to Sankar Roy who played the remaining 14 matches.

Roy has changed colours this season and will be donning the Red and Gold jersey for the first time in his career. The 25-year-old custodian was a part of Mohun Bagan’s team in the last three seasons but could only make his name under Kibu Vicuna last year. In the 14 matches he played, Roy managed to keep seven clean sheets.

While the goalkeeper’s numbers from last season are enviable, he seemed shaky in crucial situations and conceded some silly goals in quite a few matches. With no ISL experience in his kitty, it will be interesting to see if Roy can maintain his form from last season.

Mirshad Michu will don the East Bengal shirt for the fourth season in a row. In the past three years, the custodian appeared in just 10 I-League matches where he has conceded 10 goals and has managed to keep only two clean sheets. He too will make his ISL debut this season.

Other than Debjit, the only other goalkeeper in East Bengal’s roster who has ISL experience is young Bengali custodian Rafique Ali Sardar. The 22-year-old goalkeeper had plied his trade with Jamshedpur FC in the last three seasons but due to the towering presence of Subrata Paul in their ranks, Sardar got hardly any game time.

In 2018-19 he played in just one match and appeared three games last season under Antonio Iriondo where he conceded nine goals. 

The statistics of none of the goalkeepers paint a bright picture in favour of East Bengal and much will depend on how well their experienced goalkeeping coach Robert Mimms prepares them.

However, while none of these names inspire confidence, this is also a chance for one of them to establish themselves and revive (or kick-start) their career.