4.2.2012, Calcutta: The wild celebrations of the McDowell Mohun Bagan fans after their 1-1 draw against Kingfisher East Bengal, gave the impression that they have won the I-League title. But the euphoria was more because of the fact that they finished the season unbeaten against their arch-rivals.So what if Saturday’s draw at the Salt Lake Stadium put paid to their hopes of regaining the I-League title? So what if they have nothing to show for the Rs. 13 crore spent?
“We remained unbeaten against East Bengal. Isn’t it good enough to call for a party?” a senior Bagan official was heard saying at the aisles.East Bengal, for the record, were no better. Needing to win the match to remain in the title hunt, their forwards bungled once again.What followed was a tale of missed chances. And the fans, too, did not rue much about the fact that their chances of winning the I-League were almost over. The sadness was more about not being able to pull one back in the head-to-head count.“I-League is important. But then not being able to beat Bagan this season pains a fan more. I understand their feelings,” Mehtab Hossain was trying hard to justify the ‘sadness’.Well, for the record, Bagan now have 34 points from 19 matches, while East Bengal have 35. Dempo, now on 40, play Pune Football Club on Sunday and are very much on course to win the title. “It depends on Dempo now,” East Bengal coach Trevor James Morgan, was candid in the post-match media conference.On Saturday, East Bengal at least were more keen during the 90-minute action. They showed more intent and were in an attacking mood throughout. Bagan, on the other hand were bogged down by the fear of failure and were too defensive in their approach.That they managed to get a point was more due to one Okolie Odafe who scored the equaliser two minutes into the second half. Odafe’s body faint left Mehtab sprawling on the ground, he then wrong-footed Uga Okpara and unleashed a right-footer which deflected off Raju Gaekwad and hit the back of the net. The deflection caught East Bengal goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu on the wrong foot as he had already committed himself to his left.The super goal negated a 33rd minute strike by Robin Singh, who beat the off-side trap and placed the ball into the far corner with a smart left-footer. Surprisingly, the Bagan defence thought Robin was off-side and did not close him down. But when Harmanjyot Singh Khabra picked out Robin on the right, the two Bagan side-backs — Syed Rahim Nabi and Surkumar Singh — were in front of him.Tolgay also had reason to complain as his goal midway through the second half was disallowed. But he was clearly on-side when he latched onto the ball and surprisingly the assistant referee missed it completely.There were some stellar performances on the day. Penn Orji was simply brilliant and was distinctly unlucky not to find his name in the scoresheet when he failed to direct a ball from close early in the first half. Playing in front of the midfield trio of Khan Tang Paite, Mehtab and Reisangmi Vashum, he covered a lot of ground and fed the two forwards, Tolgay Ozebe and Robin with a constant supply of passes.It was just that the Bagan central defenders Anwar and Kinshuk Debnath refused to get cowed down. Debnath was exceptional and Anwar silenced his critics by complementing him well. Even after Hudson Lima pulled out and Bagan were playing one man short — they had completed their quota of three substitutions — the duo held off everything East Bengal threw at them.“Anwar is my man-of-the-match,” Bagan coach Prasanta Banerjee was effusive in his praising the former India international.Kingfisher East Bengal coach Trevor James Morgan had no problem with the refereeing in Saturday’s I-League Derby against Mohun Bagan, at the Salt Lake Stadium. But he blasted Francisco Fernandes for disallowing Tolgay Ozebe’s goal in the second half.“I have no problem with the refereeing. But the linesman was not up to the mark. People who saw it on television told me Tolgay was on-side… But the linesman thought otherwise. It cost us two vital points,” Morgan complained.Morgan said he was happy with the team’s performance but conceded that the title hopes are as good as over. “We played really well today. After what happened in our last match, we came back strongly. But I think Dempo have gained ground. It depends on Dempo now. We have to hope they slip and we keep on winning,” he said.Morgan heaped praise on goalscorer Robin Singh. “He was under pressure… He faced a lot of criticism. Today he got a goal and made a lot of movement to keep the rival defenders on tenterhooks,” he said.Mohun Bagan coach Prasanta Banerjee criticized the other linesman, Shaji Kurian, for not raising the flag when “Robin Singh was clearly off-side. We were surprised to see the linesman not reacting when Robin was clearly off-side. Even Robin stopped, thinking he will be ruled off-side.”But, then, why did nobody protest? “We thought the referee might flash a card or two. And before the match we had specifically told the players not to lose their temper.”Bagan, for the record would be missing four players in the next match against Mumbai FC. Sunil Chetri is out with a double booking, while Syed Rahim Nabi, Jose Ramirez Barreto and Hudson Lima are nursing injuries.Now, a little something about Jose Ramirez Barreto, Bagan’s man for all seasons.The Brazilian came onto the pitch in the 55th minute and limped out 20 minutes later. After the match, an emotional Barreto waved to the crowd who were chanting his name. Was this the last Derby for the 37-year-old? Only time will tell...
East Bengal: Gurpreet Singh, Harmanjyot Singh Khabra, Uga Okpara, Gurwinder Singh (Raju Gaekwad 15), Robert Lalthlamuana (Saumik Dey 71), Khan Tang Paite, Penn Orji, Mehtab Hossain, Reisangmi Vashum (Sanju Pradhan 65), Robin Singh, Tolgay Ozebe.
Mohun Bagan: Sangram Mukherjee, Surkumar Singh, Anwar, Kinshuk Debnath, Syed Rahim Nabi (R Dhanarajan 46), Rakesh Masih, Daniel Zeleny (Jose Ramirez Barreto 55, Ashim Biswas 73), Hudson Lima, Jewel Raja, Okolie Odafa, Sunil Chetri.
Referee: MB Santhosh Kumar
MoM: Robin Singh
Here are the match videos :