18.8.05, Calcutta: By saying that Mohun Bagan’s 1-0 victory over arch-rivals East Bengal was an upset, one might miss out on the vastness of its significance.
By saying that the matchwinner Gley Yao Rodrigue’s story followed one of those I-came-I-saw-I-conquered scripts, might not capture the pleasure of watching the promise of a foreign striker.
By saying that East Bengal had to suffer from one of those days when nothing went their way ' including captain Dipankar Roy’s failure to convert from the spot-kick ' would be an injustice to the way Mohun Bagan rose to the occasion or from the ashes, much like Michael Vaughan & Co. is now making their presence felt in the Australian camp.
It’s something that people love to watch and discuss with the posterity. Thursday’s CFL Premier League clash at the Salt Lake Stadium is sure to be added to Mohun Bagan’s archive. No doubt about this.
And how things turned around ever since Mohun Bagan made their first constructive attack towards the rival box. Arun Malhotra and Gurpreet Singh remained immobile allowing Manjit Singh to penetrate the area till Covan Lawrence came in the way with a timely tackle in the 17th minute. But there was Rodrigue waiting around the top box.
East Bengal defenders once again didn’t offer any challenge to the Togo World Cupper and his left-footer took a mild deflection off Lawrence and found the net through near post.
It just started a spectacle of free-flowing movement among the men in green-and-maroon jersey and reached a new height in the second-half when East Bengal showed the urgency to equalise. Before that Dipankar made a mess of a penalty kick, with two minutes to go from the breather.
The British referee Dave Richards, who officiated the match quite efficiently, was spot-on while awarding the spot-kick to the defending champions after Eduardo Coelho handed the ball in clearing a Jatin Bisht free-kick.
Dipankar must have been confused (as later vouchsafed by Mohun Bagan coach Amal Dutta) by the scene of goalkeeper Subrata Pal constantly jumping on the line. He struck outside to his right.
As Dipankar missed, Alvito D’Cunha was already leaving the ground, yielding his place to Shylo Malsawmtluanga.
Predictably East Bengal made their attacking intentions clear soon after the break. Sanjay Parte blocked Dipankar in the nick of time and Bisht’s 30-yard free-kick missed the target by inches.
Chandan Das replaced Dipankar in the 56th minute and it turned out to be a bad move. Chandan looked slow, a foil to East Bengal’s need to speed up the push for a goal.
On so many occasions in the last season, East Bengal mastered their traditional rivals. But this Mohun Bagan were ready to pay proper value to their lead. Their defence stood the test of East Bengal’s bursts.
It’s at that time Dutta’s system saw developing into some wonderful counter-moves. Two of them found Rodrigue absolutely clear inside the box and East Bengal goalkeeper Naseem Akhtar effected smothering saves on both occasions.
Subhas Bhowmick brought in I.M. Vijayan at that time. But with Mohun Bagan outnumbering the rivals on counter attacks hands down, it was always danger lurking in the red-and-gold area.
Tomba Singh and Dharamjit Singh were scorching the wings and Rodrigue left his markers Gurpreet Singh and Covan Lawrence clueless whenever he had the ball in his control.
One sweeping move after another seemed to be submerging East Bengal defence and had Akhtar not produced something spectacular, Rodrigue could have completed his hattrick and Dharamjit would have found himself on the scorers’ list.
Well, Bhowmick will be leaving now for updating his coaching lessons on foreign lands, leaving the task to his assistant Bikash Panji.
The latter, no doubt, will have a steep mountain to climb to make it four in a row in the local league because this Mohun Bagan side promises to deliver more such wonders under Dutta.
Mohun Bagan: Subrata Pal; Sanjay Parte, Mehrajuddin Wadao, Eduardo Coelho, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Tomba Singh (Jerry Zirsanga 85), Mehtab Hussain, Noel Wilson, Dharamjit Singh, Manjeet Singh (Basudeb Mondal 71), Gley Yao Rodrigue.
East Bengal: Naseem Akhtar; Sasthi Duley, Covan Lawrence, Arun Malhotra, Gurpreet Singh, Debabrata Roy, Dipankar Roy (Chandan Das 56), Bernard Pires, Jatin Bisht (I.M. Vijayan 67), Alvito D’Cunha (Shylo Malsawmtluanga 43), Syed Rahim Nabi.
Referee: Dave Roberts.