17 Sept 2002, Calcutta: Basudeb Mondal scored a fine goal that gave Mohun Bagan victory, but East Bengal live in the play-off slot still; two players were matched off and Tuesday’s derby match of the Calcutta Football League’s Super Division kept Mohammedan Sporting’s hopes of a title win ticking.
That, in short was what was soccer at the Salt Lake Stadium this day. No more, no less. It was a dreary, albeit often fast-paced, match that hardly challenged the imagination.
Considering the euphoria and angst in the 70,000-odd gathering, it is difficult to say whether football won or East Bengal lost. That, probably, is the order of the day, except for the fact that Mohun Bagan avenged the first leg defeat.
Of course, as far as domination statistics go, it surely was Mohun Bagan’s day.
The win gives Mohun Bagan their 22nd point from 11 matches. East Bengal stay on 27 and now play Port Trust who are dropout material. Mohammedan Sporting are on 27 points and have to play Mohun Bagan next. Thus the league remains open.
After a long lapse a match of the league was played under clear skies and on a dry turf. That helped speed up things onfield and it was pleasant to see a decent number of long balls being chased. However, it was less credit, initially, of the Mohun Bagan forwards and more discredit to the East Bengal defence that attacks seeped in.
In the 13th minute Dulal Biswas, up the middle, lobed to the goalmouth where Jose Ramirez Barreto jumped to head, but East Bengal goalkeeper Sandip Nandy jumped to clear well. Then George Ekeh failed to home in from close. Ekeh’s drawback was his short fuse. He got into trouble constantly, till he got his second yellow to be evicted. That did not help the Mohun Bagan forward line.
In the 17th minute Basudeb was up the middle, centring to Barreto, relayed further to Ekeh. From inside the box Ekeh failed to control and, as the ball was deflected back from the defence, Ekeh hopped on loose balance and hurriedly shot over.
The Barreto-Ekeh combination could have done things, but for the fact that both were marked too tightly and were left with little time to react. In the 21st minute, for example, Ekeh forwarded one to Barreto, but even before the quick-footed Brazilian could reach, Subhasish Roy Chowdhury cut him off with a fine-tuned bit of tackling that stood out in the tardy defence of East Bengal.
The East Bengal half line was not functioning optimally. As a result, there was not only more pressure on the defence, there was less feed for the attackers. Coach Subhas Bhowmick’s original plan of pulling the defence up attackers’ ears wasn’t working. Alvito D’Cunha was almost a lone ranger in the attack, with little support from either S. Malswamtluanga or K. Kulothungan. That helped the Mohun Bagan defence to cut him off many a foray.
In the 27th minute East Bengal came near scoring when off a Trijit Das pass from the right D’Cunha’s strong volley was just off target.
A minute to half time Basudeb was set up with a free kick, 25 yards off and to the left of the box. It was to be a regulation one, but Basudeb noticed a rather side corridor left open by the East Bengal defence, and at a pretty comfortable angle too. Basudeb, who has been good in dead ball situations earlier too, let go off right instep and, having taken air, the ball swerved a bit at goalmouth, beating Sandip Nandy jumping from midpost.
The second half saw a Barreto faltering at the goalmouth before Gaurab Dutta loped up the left. He got the better of a desperate challenger and in a position in the box from where he should have shot home, he tapped across the goalmouth.
As East Bengal mounted a minor attack, trouble started at the Mohun Bagan goalmouth. Bivash Ghosh was brought down by an overzealous attacker and Bivash almost reacted. Not that the mild-mannered Bivash would have hit, but East Bengal players rushed to the spot and it could have almost been a bad situation if not stopped through better sense.
Another bad miss followed, with Sandip Nandy tipping over a Jayanta Sen shot. Interestingly, soon into the second half Barreto moved down to the defence. That looked a trifle silly, but the Brazilian adapted to the situation pretty well, it seemed.
In the 23rd minute of the match Ekeh was in a fight with Kulothungan. The latter reacted somewhat violently and was anyway to be booked. Referee Arup Chakraborty, whose actions left much to be desired, showed the second yellow of the day to Ekeh and the red, and then also marched Kulothungan out.
While those punished protested, all players rushed to the referee. Basudeb was the first, pushing the official around, and Anit Ghosh also joined the melee. A delay of a couple minutes before the two walked out and play resumed.
The game degenerated to midfield before the long whistle blew.
Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya preened a bit Tuesday, after his team’s 1-0 victory over East Bengal in the return leg match of the Calcutta Football League’s Super Division. “My players played well, all the way, and despite some bad refereeing decisions (the ouster of George Ekeh), we were deserving winners,” he said, allowing himself a pat on the back.
“Basudeb’s was a fine goal, but look at my team, Gaurab Dutta, Rajib Ghosh… I’m not sure sometimes of the players we play with. No, it’s got nothing to do with revenge for the first leg, it is just a plain good win,” he said. “I still feel we can go to the play-off, though that isn’t something I am guaranteeing.”
He said it was “proper strategy” on his part that Jose Ramirez Barreto went down to defence in the latter part of the second half. “There was a gap there that needed to be filled,” he explained.
East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick said some strange “conspiracy” of the IFA in getting Mohammedan Sporting to the play-off has a hand in this failure.
He did not explain if Sandip Nandy’s missing of the Basudeb Mondal free-kick was also a part of that “conspiracy”. To an extent Bhowmick also blamed Nandy for the goal.
Basudeb was happy that he had again scored off a free-kick. “I was actually aiming it to Barreto. I’m happy that it went in,” said Basudeb with a Ronaldinho smile.
Barreto said he may not have felt “at home” among defenders, “but for Mohun Bagan, I will do all.”
Mohun Bagan: Bivash Ghosh, Partho Sarathi Dey (Sunil Chhetri, 46), Dulal Biswas, Kajol Bhattacharya, Lolendro Singh, Jayanta Sen, Basudeb Mondal, Ajoy Singh (Uday Konar, 35; Rajib Ghosh, 70), Gaurab Dutta, Jose Ramirez Barreto, George Ekeh.
East Bengal: Sandip Nandy, Surya Bikash Chakraborty, Anit Ghosh, Subhasis Roy Chowdhury, M. Suresh, Shankarlal Chakraborty, S. Malswamtluanga, Chandan Das (Subhas Chakraborty, 62), Alvito D’Cunha, K. Kulothungan, Trijit Das (Dipankar Roy, 38; Kaustav Ghosh, 87).
Referee: Arup Chakraborty.