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Draw will satisfy Tolly

Calcutta: For Debjit Ghosh, it is a return home on a different note and with a different agenda. Having been at the crossroads between defending champions Mohun Bagan and Mahindra United for quite some months, the India stopper finally switched in favour of the Mumbai outfit. It was past and Debjit now looks to the future to prove some points.

“Yes, it seems odd to come back home to play an away match,” he said Wednesday. “But now I’m part of a good team, a team which is champion material, and I’m determined to play a positive part in achieving that,” he added.

Incidentally, Debjit will not be the lone local connection in the Mahindra team in Thursday’s National Football League match against Tollygunge Agragami. There are more who had impressive runs at the Maidan last season. Forward R.C. Prakash, midfielders Rajendra Prasad Singh and James Singh all played key role in helping Mohun Bagan to the title. Add to this list of Mohun Bagan-discards right-back Sur Kumar Singh, and one will wonder how outsiders Mahindra will actually be for Aloke Mukherjee’s Tollygunge Agragami.

And it is this “Calcutta nerve” which is worrying Aloke most on the match-eve. “Debjit and others have played here and they have the nerves to survive a match in Calcutta. This will certainly be an advantage for Mahindra,” he observed.

Aloke admitted a draw will be “good enough” for him. “See, Tollygunge and Mahindra have different objectives in the League and hence the equations are also clear. Mahindra have pumped in crores to set up a team with an aim at the title, while a decent finish is our agenda,” Aloke told The Telegraph.

“Against East Bengal (in the first match), we created a lot of chances but lack of experience in the players came in their way. Moreover, to survive a marathon league, we need a strong reserve bench, which sadly I don’t have. Moreover, we have no sponsors’ support, neither a public pressure to motivate the team like Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. With such odds at stake, I have only one thing to tell my boys: ‘Don’t lose heart and put up a fight on the ground. The result will automatically come’.”

Aloke revealed midfielder Sandip Das will play in the deep in a formation which aims at crowding their zone to check Mahindra sorties. Srikanta Dutta is an injury concern but will play, the coach said. Akeem Abolanle, who was booked against East Bengal, will join Ashim Biswas in the frontline.

The Mumbai outfit rode Prakash’ strike to beat HAL in the first match and look confident to keep up the winning run. “There’s no question of taking out opponents lightly. A local team is always a difficult hurdle. So we will take on Tollygunge in the match as it moves on,” Mahindra’s Czech World Cupper-coach Carel Stromcek said.

Incidentally, Tollygunge beat Mahindra 1-0 at home in the NFL last season, a result which Aloke highlighted as one of his team’s best performances so far.

Teams (from)

Tollygunge Agragami: Gopal Das; Amitabha Chanda, Isiaka Awoyemi, Deb Kumar Sashmol; Dipayan Majumdar, Mehtab Hossain, Sandip Das, Srikanta Dutta, Sujoy Dutta, Laltu Das, Akeem Abolanle and Ashim Biswas.

Mahindra United: Firoz Sarif; Sur Kumar Singh, Debjit Ghosh, Odartey Lawson, Anthony Fernandes; James Singh, R.P. Singh, Khalid Siddiqui, Peter Stranadel; Avishek Yadav, R.C. Prakash/Momba Samson.

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