16 Dec 2001, Calcutta: Football is all about goals, and the one who gets them its most precious possession. Among those who do, some stand alone with their craftsmanship and vision. A combination of both is not very common and Indian football is fortunate to have one such practitioner even at a time when it’s experiencing new lows.
It was a stroke of pure brilliance from Jose Ramirez Barreto which separated Mohun Bagan from East Bengal in today’s National League tie at Salt Lake Stadium. The 1-0 verdict should not have too great an impact in the 12-team, double-leg marathon, considering it was just the second outing for both teams.
What it’s likely to do, taking into account the way the goal was scored, is that Mohun Bagan’s confidence will soar in the knowledge that they can continue to look up to Barreto in times of trouble. Their perennial rivals will have to go home, think what went wrong, work a way out and get back to business as soon as they can.
What continues to baffle soccer afficionados is what this Brazilian is doing in this dark and remote corner of world football! Surely, he will get better places to display his class where the standard is higher.
Time to talk about the match. It was as scrappy as any other clash involving the superpowers of Indian football. There was this tendency to interrupt proceedings with tricks forbidden by the law and referee K. Shankar flashed the yellow card five times to keep things under control.
There was also an expulsion — that of Ranjan Dey who attracted the yellow card twice within 13 minutes after coming in as substitute — which meant East Bengal had to make do with ten men for the last 32 minutes. East Bengal suffered another major blow when key defender Dipak Mondal left the field after getting injured. He is unlikely to return in three weeks. Dey, incidentally, was Mondal’s replacement.
And then, there was divine intervention in the 26th minute. It was an apparently harmless centre from the right, which travelled to Barreto stationed at the edge of the penalty box after a deflection from Abdulateef Seriki. The ball bounced waist-high between Jackson Egygpong and Barreto, and the latter had time for just one touch to accomplish mission. It came in the form of an air-bound, right-footed side volley and like an obedient aide, the ball crashed into the near end of the goal — beating India goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee to his right.
It didn’t jerk East Bengal into action, who were looking the better side till then and even had an early Suley Musah ‘goal’ disallowed because of an infringement. They continued with their slipshod ways with no constructive movement from the midfield and failed to create even one genuine chance. They did force the odd half-chance towards the end, but those were more out of desperation rather than planned moves.
East Bengal’s approach, when they realised they had to get even, was shockingly primitive. Balls were floated towards the box from the rear in the hope that strikers Bijen Singh and Omolaja Olalekan would get them down and do the needful. Neither is tall enough for such a plan to succeed and it didn’t.
In the early stages of the match, there was a bit of thrust from East Bengal down the right but Isiaka Awoyemi blasted them way over the mark like a spoilt kid. Their enterprise down the flanks, however, died down as the match progressed.
I.M. Vijayan looked almost clueless in his new avatar as midfielder. The most successful Indian striker in recent times was cheeky at his best and the odd one he chipped in was too clever for lesser mortals. He got a golden chance to redeem himself with a free-kick towards the end from what was dreaded as ‘Vijayan zone’ not too long ago. He buried it into the wall.
Even a six-minute stoppage time added on to the proceedings wasn’t enough for East Bengal to get their act right.
Mohun Bagan got two more clear chances in the second half when East Bengal had thrown most of their men forward. Seriki was the one to get the goalkeeper alone on both occasions but forced a smart save once and blew away the other to wilderness.
Mohun Bagan’s saviour on many occasions since arriving in India two years ago, Jose Ramirez Barreto rated today’s goal against East Bengal as his best yet.
He also said today’s victory in the National League clash was the right reply to those who were sceptical about his team’s ability.
“Our defence is not as bad as is made out to be. Today’s result proves it. The goal was special since it was my first in a win over East Bengal. It was also the most satisfying,” the magical Brazilian said.
The Bagan coach refused to see this match as an indicator of which way the title might go since it’s still so early in the marathon league. “It’s a morale-booster no doubt,” Subrata Bhattacharya felt.
His East Bengal counterpart Manoranjan Bhattacharya said his team didn’t deserve to lose. “We had better ball possession and I don’t know why the goal by Suley Musah was disallowed.”
Although the coach felt wronged there was no sign of discontent among the East Bengal players when the Ghanaian was pulled up for a foul when he hit the mark in the sixth minute.
There was more bad news in the East Bengal camp with Dipak Mondal being ruled out for at least three weeks.
Their mainstay in defence suffered a right ligament injury and had his leg plastered in the dressing room itself. The team doctor said Mondal has been advised not to fold that leg for some time.
Meanwhile, East Bengal’s goalkeepers’ coach Bhaskar Ganguly refused to blame Sangram Mukherjee for the goal. “He was perhaps unsighted and it’s never easy when it’s a volley or header,” explained the former stalwart.
“The problem with such efforts is there is little time to react, unlike a shot taken from the ground. You have to guess and hope the ball comes the way you dive,” he said.
MOHUN BAGAN: Rajat Ghosh Dastidar; Dulal Biswas, Amauri Da Silva, Hussain Mustafi, Lolendra Singh; James Singh, Basudeb Mondal (Sumit Sengupta, 89), Debjit Ghosh, Ajay Singh; Jose Ramirez Barreto, Abdulateef Seriki (Uday Konar, 87).
EAST BENGAL: Sangram Mukherjee; Suley Musah, Jackson Egygpong, Dipak Mondal (Ranjan Dey, 55), Surya Bikash Chakraborty (Ratan Singh, 61); Isiaka Awoyemi, I.M. Vijayan, Anit Ghosh, Dipankar Roy (Dipendu Biswas, 74), Omolaja Olalekan, Bijen Singh.
Referee: K. Shankar (Tamil Nadu).
Source : http://www.telegraphindia.com/1011217/sports.htm#head1
Source : http://www.telegraphindia.com/1011217/sports.htm#head1