8.4.2006, Calcutta: One’s greatness is proved when he or she chooses the right moment to rise to the occasion. And Bhaichung Bhutia did exactly the same once again to earn East Bengal their fourth victory on the trot, beating Mohun Bagan 3-1 in the National Football League (NFL) for the ONGC Cup at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday.
Barring a miracle, title hopes are almost over for the green-and-maroons. East Bengal, playing their 200th NFL game, raced to 24 points from 11 matches to lead the table, while Mohun Bagan remained on 17 from 12 outings.
Opportunist Bhaichung drew first blood in the 48th minute and the lead was doubled when Shylo Malsawmtluanga scored in the 62nd minute.
Substitute Mehtab Hussain pulled one back in the 72nd minute, but young gun Gouranga Dutta hammered the final nail on Mohun Bagan’s coffin a minute from time.
Bhaichung not only put his team ahead but also contributed to the next two goals.
Mohun Bagan couldn’t match the pace in which East Bengal started, though the green-and-maroons squandered a lollypop in the very first minute.
A floater was headed in nicely by Sushil Kumar to set it up for an unmarked Awudu Ibrahim. Ibrahim, having all the time in the world, mishit it towards the touchline.
Apart from East Bengal’s sheer domination, there were three moments that can be called the turning points.
Ibrahim’s astonishing miss in the opening minute, Dharamjit Singh’s 31st-minute marching orders and last but not the least, Tomba Singh’s knee injury, forcing him to leave the field in the 82nd minute.
Dharamjit’s ouster prompted coach Biswajit Bhattacharya to bring in Mehtab Hussain to fill in the hollow in the midfield. But the misery was doubled when Tomba Singh had to be stretchered out in the 82nd minute with a dislocated left-knee after a K. Kulothungan tackle.
Mohun Bagan players, perhaps, could never get over that first-minute shock and gradually went into the shell as East Bengal gained ground and made it a one-way traffic. An Alvito D’Cunha flag-kick, which swerved in, nearly gave East Bengal the lead.
The trio of Bhaichung, Gouranga and Syed Rahim Nabi made the task of the green-and-maroon brigade ever tougher.
Especially, the speed in which Gouranga made several forays into the opposition defence was really something that helped East Bengal gain momentum initially.
After gaining momentum, it was up to the red-and-gold warriors to keep that going. After a barren first half, East Bengal capitalised on the Mohun Bagan’s lack of stamina and created chances one after another.
Following Bhaichung’s exceptional flick in the 48th minute, Man of the Match Alvito unleashed a powerful right footer, which was fisted out by Subrata Pal, but the ball landed in the penalty box.
Bhaichung, opportunist that he is, followed the ball to make it 1-0.
In the 62nd minute, Bhaichung’s forward pass was intercepted by Alvito, who forwarded the ball for Malsawmtluanga, who dodged past A. Firoze to pierce the net.
Mohun Bagan, in their bid to comeback, sounded the net in the 72nd minute.
Mehtab’s 30-yarder off a Coffi Agbessi pass went in after a slight deflection. During this span Mohun Bagan launched attacks quite frequently.
But Gouranga sealed the fate of the match in the 89th minute, quite against the run of play. Taking advantage of opponents’ lesser numbers, Bhaichung set it up for Gouranga to perform the last rites, which the youngster did with immaculate precision.
For quite obvious reasons, the Sikkimese was kept under strict vigil by Sanjiv Maria and to some extent Mehrajuddin Wadao, but they had to concentrate on something else after Dharamjit was shown the red card.
East Bengal: Naseem Akhtar, Syed Rahim Nabi, Guy Martial, Anupam Sarkar, Habibur Rehman Mondal, Shylo Malsawmtluanga, Ndem Guy Herve (K. Kulothungan 82), Jayanta Sen, Alvito D’ Cunha (Dipankar Roy 66), Gouranga Dutta, Bhaichung Bhutia.
Mohun Bagan: Subrata Pal, Manas Das, Sanjiv Maria, Mehrajuddin Wadao, Dulal Biswas, Dharamjit Singh, Noel Wilson (A. Firoze 50), Chinmoy Sarkar (Mehtab Hussain 44), Coffi Edem Agbessi, Awudu Ibrahim (Tomba Singh 59), Sushil Singh.
Referee: P.K. Bose (MP).
Here are the match videos :
Source : http://www.telegraphindia.com/1060409/asp/sports/story_6076338.asp