Calcutta, 20 Nov 2011: The never-say-die attitude of four players and the smile of Lady Luck. Well, these factors were enough for Mohun Bagan to beat East Bengal 1-0 in an I-League match at the Salt Lake Stadium, here on Sunday.
Goalkeeper and Man of the Match Sangram Mukherjee, defender Kingshuk Debnath, captain Jose Ramirez Barreto and left half Syed Rahim Nabi fought valiantly against the marauding East Bengal side.
Okolie Odafe might have found his name in the score sheet and did an extravagant victory lap after referee Pratap Singh blew the final whistle, but it was because of these four Bagan players that Subrata Bhattacharya was smiling and Trevor James Morgan was sulking.
Now about the Lady Luck which backed Bagan to the hilt
Twenty one minutes into the match, Barreto and Odafe combined well to set Sunil Chetri on the run. East Bengal defender Uga Okpara failed to clear the ball in the first attempt and Chetri was infront of the goal with only goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to beat.
There were vehement protests from Okpara (he got a yellow card for that) and his teammates but the referee stood his ground. Odafe gleefully converted the penalty with a low shot on the left but the penalty without doubt was debatable.
Was Okpara’s tackle clean or was it not? East Bengal camp, even after the match, was bitter about the decision as television replays showed that Okpara had a touch on the ball and Chetri fell losing his balance. But in hindsight you cannot blame the referee. After all he gets a split of a second to decide.
At the post-match media conference, East Bengal coach Morgan, in as many words, voiced his displeasure. “The relationship between the officials and the players improve if the official comes to the dressing room and say ‘look it was a mistake on my part. I am sorry’. I will not say anything more,” Morgan was curt.
East Bengal did not really recover from this controversial decision for the rest of the first half. Also Nabi kept Naoba Singh and Reisangmi Vashum quite and Morgan’s men looked very ordinary. They started losing their composure and it seemed all over for East Bengal.
The second half saw Snehashish Chakaraborty coming in place of a limping Rakesh Masih and Nabi switched to the right flank. This was what East Bengal were waiting for. No Nabi to torment the Manipuri duo. Naoba and Vashum sensed they have a chance and East Bengal launched a series of attacks from the right. The goal was coming any moment.
Vashum failed to convert a free header, Sangram twice denied Sanju Pradhan from getting his place under the ‘light’, Baljeet Sahni failed to direct a Robin Singh header from handshaking distance and a sprawling Sangram parried away a Robin grounder which had a goal written on it. It was not just East Bengal’s day.
Alan Gow did some running but once in the attacking third, Kingshuk was there to take care of the Scot.
Late into the second half, Bagan got a chance to finish off the match. Odafe slipped one to Chetri who had only Gurpreet to beat. But he placed it wide. Surprising to see someone of Chetri’s calibre missing a chance like that.
Five minutes before full time, there was more drama. The stadium plunged into darkness following a problem in the switchgear of a substation in Sector III. There was a 19-minute stoppage and the Bagan officials, who organised the home match, were heard talking about a sabotage.
Play resumed but the scoreline remained as it was before the power cut.
Referee Singh blew the final whistle Odafe celebrated his first ‘Derby’ goal and Bagan win with a victory lap. The crowd was enjoying every moment of it. And why should not they? It was Bagan’s first win against arch-rivals after more than a year.
Mohun Bagan: Sangram Mukherjee, Surkumar Singh, Kingshuk Debnath, Daniel Zeleny, R.Dhanarajan, Syed Rahim Nabi, Jewel Raja, Rakesh Masih (Snehasish Chakraborty 46), Jose Ramirez Barreto, Okolie Odafe, Sunil Chetri.
East Bengal: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Naoba Singh, Uga Okpara, Nirmal Chetri, Robert Lalthlamuana, Reisangmi Vashum, Sanju Pradhan (Ravinder Singh 84), Sushant Mathew (Baljeet Sahni 70), Penn Orji, Alan Gow, Robin Singh
Referee: Pratap Singh
Here are the match videos :