Was special to play in front of East Bengal FC fans again: Juan Mera
Juan Mera, Luka Majcen, and Cleiton Silva shared their thoughts after East Bengal FC played out a goalless draw against Punjab FC on December 9.
East Bengal FC failed to win consecutive games in the Indian Super League (ISL) against as Punjab FC’s solid defence constipated the Red and Gold Brigade’s attacking prowess, giving them very little chance to generate goalscoring opportunities.
The Shers’ defensive third demonstrated a resolve throughout the match, absorbing East Bengal FC’s 29 crosses (the joint second highest by East Bengal FC in a single match in ISL history), displaying their calm temperament, focused mentality, tactical and possessional awareness, and high anticipation skills. From Dimitris Chatziisaias to Suresh Meitei and Nitesh Darjee to Khaiminthang Lhungdim, all were doing their very best to deny the hosts from breaking the deadlock, who were well-fueled after their convincing 5-0 win against NorthEast United FC last week.
It was the first time in the ISL that Juan Mera, a former East Bengal FC player and a fan-favourite, stepped in against his former club. Mera continued to show his creative spark in the midfield corridor with his brilliant dribbling, smart vision, and quick feet. It was Mera who came the closest to scoring for the visitors in the 36th minute of the game, when he hit the top right crossbar, leaving East Bengal FC's defence mere spectators.
The Spanish midfielder became emotional while speaking about East Bengal FC, his first club on Indian soil and revealed that his heart still beats for their fans.
“It’s very special for me. East Bengal FC was my first team here in India, and I have many special memories with this team,” Mera told indiansuperleague.com while speaking about his experience of playing in front of numerous East Bengal FC supporters at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata.
“For me, it was a special day, a special match. We had challenges getting the first win of the league. But we are happy with our performance. We have to keep it going and try to win the next match,” he stated.
Punjab FC’s Slovenian forward, Luka Majcen, opined that against East Bengal FC, it has been their best defensive performance so far in the ISL 2023–24 and it showed their character and stability.
"They (East Bengal FC) started the game very strongly, but we came back strong. I think both teams deserve one point each," Majcen commented.
"Yes, (it was our best defensive performance so far this season). We did not concede a goal. This is a positive thing. We fought (till the end), we held good blocks as a team, and we ran from one end to another. We can be proud of our defensive function," he continued.
East Bengal FC captain Cleiton Silva also highlighted keeping another clean sheet and remained optimistic about his team’s performance.
"It’s good to keep a clean sheet,” Silva stated.
“We played a good game; we fought a lot. These kinds of games are very difficult. The positive things are that we did not concede a goal, and we are in the first-six position. This is our target for the season. So, it was not a bad game, not a bad night," he shared.
Silva also believed that there were no such goalscoring opportunities for his team except PV Vishnu’s chance in the dying minutes of the game. But he is hopeful about their last three results and anticipates a very tough challenge against Mumbai City FC on December 16.
"I think we did not create any real chance. We had some crossings and some dangerous play, but no real chance was there. Maybe there was one good chance with PV Vishnu; he did very well inside the box," he opined.
"Let's be positive. We got one point (against Punjab FC). We did not lose in the last three matches. We are in the top six of the table. Our next match will be very difficult against Mumbai City FC. Let's see," Silva signed off.