Monday, 24 June 2013

East Bengal 1-1 Mohun Bagan : Calcutta Football League 2nd Leg 2008-09

12.9.08, Calcutta: Mohun Bagan claimed their 28th local league title on Friday, drawing 1-1 against archrivals East Bengal at the Salt Lake Stadium and picking up the required point that took them out of second placed Mohammedan Sporting’s reach in the Sahara CFL Premier Division.
The afternoon sun was beating down, the usually vacant stands were brimming with colour — equal measures of red, gold, green and maroon, of course — and the roads leading to the stadium were choc-a-bloc.
The mood was perfect for the derby, one that had a lot riding on it. With Mohun Bagan under tremendous pressure, starting with a back four who have never played together, East Bengal expectedly made a brisk start. Rino Anto, Anand Vasan, N.S. Manju and Mohan Raj (who has been no stranger to defensive lapses this season) were tested by Sunil Chhetri and Ashim Biswas within the first ten minutes.
In the seventh minute Mohan Raj brought down Ashim inside the box, but referee Mrinanshu Bhattacharya snubbed penalty claims. A blatant shirt tug by Mohan on Ashim saw the referee brandish the first yellow card of the afternoon.
He went on to book eight players in a match that saw a generous measure of dissent from players and coaches, as well as sly fouls from both sets of players. Both teams took time to settle, mostly playing square passes with East Bengal making occasional forays down the wings.
In the 22nd minute Bagan took the lead, completely against the run of play after a Nirmal Chhetri mistimed tackle on Malswamtluanga won them a just penalty. With the league title at stake, Jose Ramirez Barreto stepped up and scored from the spot, sending home an unstoppable shot that found the top left hand corner.
The goal took the wind out of East Bengal as the creativity in the midfield evaporated. Alvito D’Cunha, Sanju Pradhan and Syed Rahim Nabi’s crosses from the flanks were being cut off comfortably before they could reach Sunil or Ashim upfront.
It was a similar story for Manoranjan Bhattacharjee’s side in the second period, playing without Nabi (taken off after a kick in the face from S. James Singh) and Mehrajuddin Wadoo and substitute C. Malsawmkima being outthought by young Rakesh Masih and S. James Singh. Sangram Mukherjee under the bars for Bagan went largely untested, protected well by his back four and the defensive midfielders. Barreto too was seen falling back, helping out his side.
A wonder strike from substitute Edmilson Marques in the 83rd minute put the celebrations on hold for Bagan, temporarily. The Brazilian’s powerful right-footed freekick flew past Sangram into the goal bringing a fresh spark in East Bengal’s play. But it came a little too late for the red-and-gold brigade as Bagan hung on for the draw, buoyed by Bhaichung Bhutia’s presence on field for the last few minutes.

As East Bengal coach Manoranjan Bhattacharjee was walking towards the media briefing room, two supporters drenched in sweat and weeping piteously ran up to him and in voices hoarse with panic, complained that the Mohun Bagan supporters were attacking them. An already troubled Bhattacharjee, rumours are he stands losing his job after Friday’s draw, turned to them, and in his usual impassive way said: “This is the first time I’ve heard of East Bengal supporters getting beaten up.”
Whether that implied shock or underscored the innocence of the EB fans is hard to say, but what can be said for a fact, is that the East Bengal partisans along with those belonging to rivals Mohun Bagan participated with alacrity in the hustle, bustle and bloodshed that accompanied the final derby of the CFL Premier Division.
The flashpoint came with East Bengal’s equaliser in the 83rd minute. The VIP box erupted in a clamour of war cries. This was accompanied by a pitched battle which saw pet bottles being used as missiles; also an uprooted chair. Throughout the match the kops greeted every unwelcome decision with a rain of bottles onto the pitch.
Some came close to hitting the players. Club authorities and supporters from both sides were up in arms over charges of bad refereeing and alleged high-handedness of the police. However, the situation never really spun out of control.
After Friday’s derby draw, that saw East Bengal finish the Sahara CFL Premier Division at third place with 25 points from 14 games the tell tale signs of fatigue and frustration were showing on coach Manoranjan Bhattacharjee.
Speaking to the media after the match, Manoranjan gave the biggest hint that he may be stepping down as East Bengal coach before the start of the I-League. He said, “I haven’t yet heard the rumours of a foreign coach replacing me, but I can tell you this much that I have given a verbal hint to the club officials, expressing my desire to step down.”
He added soon after that the decision is likely to be announced on Sunday, after he hands in a written request to the club. It has been learnt that Stanley Rozario, Bob Houghton’s assistant in the national set-up is most likely to take the helm at East Bengal.
While offering his congratulations to league champions Mohun Bagan, Manoranjan slammed the refereeing, claiming his side should have been awarded a penalty, if not two.
“Manju had handled the ball in the box and the foul on Ashim, early in the match should have been a penalty too.”Manoranjan went on to list four second leg matches—against Railway FC, Mohammedan Sporting, Camellia George Telegraph and Friday’s game against his own side—where Mohun Bagan were saved thanks to the referee.
Karim Bencharifa seemed a contented man, having delivered in his first challenge after coming to Calcutta. He said: “It wasn’t easy…We were under great pressure from the media, opponents and weighed down by the expectations of our fans…But we’ve proved today that we deserve respect from all quarters.”
Speaking about his team’s preparations shrouded by off the pitch drama on the eve of the big clash, Bencharifa quipped, “Everything was going against us. We were without Deepak (Mondal), Habibur and Peter (Odafe). Bhaichung and Mohan Raj hadn’t trained and young Rino Anto was low on confidence. But I had told the players before the match that we all either do or die together.”
Mohun Bagan:
Sangram Mukherjee, Rino Anto, J. Anand Vasan, N.S. Manju, N. Mohan Raj (Rahul Kumar 76), S. Malswamtluanga, Rakesh Masih, S. James Singh, Lalram Luaha, Jose Ramirez Barreto (L. James Singh 84), P.C. Lalawmpuiya (Bhaichung Bhutia 90)
East Bengal: Subrata Paul, Surkumar Singh, Nirmal Chhetri, Suley Musah, Saumik Dey, Sanju Pradhan (Parveen Kumar 74), Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Alvito D’Cunha (Edmilson Marques 53), Syed Rahim Nabi (C. Malsawmkima 35), Ashim Biswas, Sunil Chhetri
Referee: Mrinanshu Bhattacharya
Man of the Match: Rakesh Masih

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