11 Aug 2001, Calcutta: An afternoon of dull soccer, and an opportunistic second half strike by substitute James Singh. That sort of settled the Calcutta Football League’s Super Division leaders at the Salt Lake Stadium today.
Mohun Bagan are the undisputed leaders now, three points clear of nearest rivals Bhratri Sangha (18 points) and seven wholesome points ahead of East Bengal.
The ‘Derby’ match, as it was billed, turned out insipid. The stands were choc-a-bloc, after a long time, full of arrivals from way across the horizons and East Bengal had everything to play for.
That should have been incentive enough, and it was not as if East Bengal did not try. But there was this lack of understanding in the attack line, and then when the woodwork was there to whip in, there were misses. Talking of misses, Dipendu Biswas has made an interesting habit of it, as interesting as can comprise a ‘house of horrors’. Today he added more to his collection.
And I.M. Vijayan, English sojourn and all that incorporated, made for a rather pathetic passenger. At least East Bengal’s new Tanzanian recruit, Ally Amayay Tembele, did promise some decent soccer in the days to come. There could have been no argument for ground condition, which was not too good, because of a strong, smart shower just before the match.
East Bengal dominated the first half, and should have gone ahead easily had Dipendu not shot over from close in the 12th minute. He had been fed from the left by Vijayan on one of the latter’s few positive moves.
In the 30th minute Ally slid up quickly and set Dipankar Roy up who squared across the goalmouth. Dipendu was required to get a touch for the goal. He failed.
That’s when Jo Paul Ancheri was pulled out for Anit Ghosh. Ancheri is a laggard now, his injury has failed to heal, it seems, and he is a liability on the team.
East Bengal missed another chance, too, when Vijayan outstepped a free-kick out, from inside the box. This crazy free-kick was availed of when Mohun Bagan’s Rennedy Singh backpassed to Bivash Ghosh in the box and the goalkeeper collected.
Mohun Bagn looked a refreshed side after the change of ends. There, obviously was some hard talking in the deressing room. Their first half was sad, and one was not forgetting the third minute Jackson Egygopong shot from the top of the Bagan defensive third that had rolled in unattended through the line of defenders till Bivash Ghosh collected.
In the 55th minute there was this ugly scene in the Mohun Bagan defence zone, with Hussain Mustafi, Barreto, Dipendu, Bivash and more involved in a rough-up and semi-fisticuffs. It was a crude way of expressing oneself, and as referee Arup Chakraborty picked up his yellow card that had gone flying in the chaos, one expected a few more bookings. He did none.
Play was cooling off rapidly, dwindling towards a draw, when, in the 61st minute, Basudeb Mondal was up the left in a sudden counterattack. Mondal forwarded to Rennedy, who chipped to the goalmouth. James quickly chested it down and shot home. Ratan Singh was ahead, but failed to intercept.
East Bengal came back with all the pressure tactics, but it was late by then. The issue had been decided.
Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya came off the many congratulations that landed in his lap for his wards today beating East Bengal 1-0 in their CFL Super Division tie at the Salt Lake Stadium. He said he was confident of “not losing” once his wards were able to see off the first half.
“They (East Bengal) surely played better in the first half,” said Subrata, “but we caught up after change of ends and it was a good goal to score anyway.” He said the backpass incident was a “mistake”. “It was not an intentional backpass,” he said, “hence the penalty should not have been what it was.”
He also refused to say that the title was in his pocket. “There is no way I can say that, because there are a good many matches left. Anything can happen. I don’t believe in any comment before I’m 100 per cent.”
East Bengal coach Manoranjan Bhattacharya said Ratan Singh’s missing the flight of the ball from James Singh was a rare incident. “Such happens once in a hundred chances, and it did today.”
He, of course, said James Singh’s effort was commendable. Manoranjan’s did not seem too perturbed by this defeat. He said he was looking forward to the federation Cup and “no shadow of this defeat will be on that meet for East Bengal.”
While conceding that the seven-point difference was rather on the long side to be caught up with, Manorajan said that his team was getting into shape and he expects better understanding soon. He, made it clear that he was not satisfied with I.M. Vijayan. “He is not in form,” said the coach, cancelling all the English tour experience gathered by the player.
MOHUN BAGAN: Bivash Ghosh, Dulal iswas, Amouri Da’Silva, Hussain Mustafi, Rishi Kapoor, Basudeb Mondal (Ajoy Singh, 84), Debjit Ghos, Renedy Singh, Jose Ramirez Barreto, R.C. Prakash (Hjames Singh, 46), Abdulateef Seriki.
EAST BENGAL: Sangram Mukherjee, Falguni Dutta, Dipak Mondal, Jackson Egygopong, Ratan Singh, Awoemi Isiaka (Dipak Das, 66), Ally Mayay Tembele, Jo Paul Ancheri (Anit Ghosh, 34), Dipankar Roy (Amit Das, 68), Dipendu Biswas, I.M. Vijayan.
Referee: Arup Chakraborty