11 March 2002, Calcutta: Ninety minutes at the Salt Lake Stadium this afternoon decided a number of things — that Mohun Bagan is well in the hunt for a third crown, that East Bengal will remain destined to roam around those lowly off-podium places, that Jose Ramirez Barreto is surely the best striker in the country today. It also proved that pan-fried emotion and not good soccer is the Bengali babu’s favourite Maidan dish.
When Barreto struck home in the 55th minute, Mohun Bagan moved into the leader’s spot in the Tata National League with 28 points from 15 matches. Vasco also stand on 28 points but the Calcutta team has a better goal difference. Churchill, however, have 27 points after 14. East Bengal remained on 20 from the same number of matches.
It was a humid afternoon of wishful soccer, scrappy at best, temper-tattered at its worst. It was interesting to note that a 60,000-odd turnout really did not mind that what was being served may have been tasting a trifle too sour to be fresh. That was that frail, time-tested nature of the Calcutta palette.
To be fair, though, the goal was a package worth all the money one may have paid. It was a dainty and quick mix of a set-piece well effected and a defensive lapse that let go the marauders. Dulal Biswas loped up the middle and found R.P. Singh on the right, in the box. The pass actually reached Jo Paul Ancheri, but the star international botched it up with a jumble fry, and it all resulted in a square centre to the goalmouth. Barreto was volleying in a flash and East Bengal goalkeeper Sudip Sarkar could do little about it.
And, to think that East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick today refused to use the experienced Sangram Mukherjee for a so-called ‘safer’ Sudip.
The match was generally dominated by Mohun Bagan. There was little East Bengal could do in the face of probes from Abaulateef Seriki and Basudeb Mondal (who worked the midfield well) and even Rennedy Singh and R.P. Singh. Their efforts were too creaky, though, and referee Rizwan Ul-Haq’s frequent stoppages without the benefit of advantage did not help. East Bengal did have their mobility problem, but it was less due to what Bhowmick later said was “Falguni Dutta’s absence” and more due to the lack of basic initiative.
East Bengal also lost a good deal of manpower in trying to police Barreto and Seriki. That could have been the make-break difference. Suley Musah was hardly moving today, a man who makes the flanks lively in the dullest of seasons. There were also these temper tantrums (once a brief stoppage involving Seriki and Jackson Egygpong and the latter dived, bringing onto the ground an East Bengal official). On the one occasion that Musah moved, in the 30th minute, Carlos and Dipankar Roy took it to the goal with ‘keeper Rajat Ghosh Dastidar out of position. Hussain Mustafi made a late save for Mohun Bagan.
However, there is little to say about the Mohun Bagan misses. In the 43rd minute Seriki’s effort went off the crosspiece, another in the 77th off Rennedy Singh again chipped off the crossbar.
Sadly, though, apart from the crazily cheering crowd, and the fact that one Calcutta team stays in the lead, there will be little to remember from this ‘derby’ clash, the second time that Mohun Bagan have beaten East Bengal in this League. That, too, is a first for National Leagues.
East Bengal’s Anit Ghosh started the day with a prayer. Later he was pulled out by coach Subhas Bhowmick because of “non-performance.”
Mohun Bagan’s Jose Ramirez Barreto finished his job and raised his hands in prayer. “I can only say I have been able to function the way I have because of my team,” he said. “It was a team win today,” he said.
The Brazilian singled out Abdulateef Seriki as the “best player of the day” and said the Nigerian’s efforts well complemented his in the 1-0 National Football League win at the Salt Lake Stadium.
Bhowmick said it was Falguni Dutta’s accident yesterday that did his team in today. “It had created such a psychological pressure on the team, it was difficult to come out of it,” he said after the match.
Bhowmick also put a good deal of blame on Jo Paul Ancheri (who is likely to be out again, because his injury seems to be troubling still) and even Anit, who did a decent job on-field anyway.
Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya believed he “waited out the first half just to measure up the rivals.”
“That was how I was able to dominate the second half,” he said. That was notwithstanding the fact that Mohun Bagan made a good deal of forays in the first half as well.
Bhattacharya felt that the League title is still far off, but “I will let things be easy now, I have been pressuring the players too much for too long.” He also felt that the first-leg win (in which, too, Barreto had scored) was “definitely more satisfying.”
MOHUN BAGAN: Rajat Ghosh Dastidar; Dulal Biswas, Hussain Mustafi, Amouri Da Silva, Rishi Kapoor; R.P. Singh (Ajoy Singh, 75), Basudeb Mondal (Abdul Saliu, 82), Debjit Ghosh, Rennedy Singh; Jose Ramirez Barreto, Abdulateef Seriki.
EAST BENGAL: Sudip Sarkar; Suley Musah, Isiaka Awoyemi, Dipak Mondal, Jackson Egygpong; Jo Paul Ancheri (Tushar Rakshit, 78), Chandan Das, Anit Ghosh (Ranjan Dey, 60), Dipankar Roy (Dipendu Biswas, 64); Jose Carlos Da Silva, Bijen Singh.
Referee: Rizwan Ul-Haq (Delhi)