MUMBAI, DECEMBER 7: An 87th minute strike by spearhead Amar Ganguly saw Mohun Bagan knook-out arch-rivals and Calcutta League champions Kingfischer East Bengal, 1-0, in the all-Bengal semi-final clash of the 10Oth Bristol Rovers Cup Football Tournament at the jam-packed Cooperage, on Sunday.
Bagan were deserving winners. They called the tune after a slow start and never looked back. The first-half was mostly a listless affair and two tries, one each by Bagan’s Debjit Ghosh and RP Singh were easily dealt with by East Bengal custodian Sangram Mukherjee.
The second-half of the game was contested at a blistering pace. Bagan dictated terms in a sustained manner, muffed several chances and then scored the match-winner late in the game. The goal sent their legion of supporters into raptures and came at a time when East Bengal were reduced to ten men, after their livewire linkman Suley Musah was shown the red card for a blatant foul on Bagan’s RP Singh in 79th minute.
With this victory, Bagan qualified to meet Goa League champions Zee Churchill Brothers in Tuesday’s final, which will commence at 4.30 p.m.
East Bengal had a golden opportunity to wrest the lead, following a swift counter-offensive in the 48th minute. Olim Talliaey caught the entire Bagan defence on the wrong foot with a forward pass. Bagan goal-tender Bivash Ghosh failed to cut off the pass after leaving his charge, but striker Sreekant Dutta shot wide off the untenanted goal.
Bagan made good use of the flanks to build up their raids. Their left flank bristled today with RP Singh stealing the show with his speedy runs. One of his long-range tries, from one such raid, was confidently taken care of by EB goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee in the 50th minute.
The absence of striker Dos Santos was felt in the Bagan ranks and their other Brazilian import Jose Barretto was well-policed by EB stopper Jackson Agaypong, who was a tower of strength in defence for the losers.
In the 72nd minute, Bagan left wing-back Lolendro Singh sent in a long precise diagonal to Barretto, who was unmarked in the box. The latter controlled the ball well, but shot meekly into the waiting hands of EB goalkeeper Mukherjee.
Five minutes later, goalkeeper Mukherjee brought off a spectacular save for his team. He dived full length to his right and fisted away a knee-high effort from the top of the box by Bagan linkman Dulal Biswas.
Barretto had a hand in the Bagan match-winner which came three minutes from the final whistle. He neatly headed the ball forward in the box for Amar Ganguly. The Bagan striker beat a defender and then placed the ball past goalkeeper Mukherjee from handshaking distance.