| Mahindra United’s Debjit Ghosh does his best to thwart Mohammedan Sporting striker Akeem Abolanle at the Salt Lake Stadium Thursday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Tollygunge Agragami played some good passing football and took advantage of sloppy defending to surprise Mahindra United 3-2 in their National Football League match at Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday.
Ashim Biswas put the city outfit in front after 18 minutes, Odartey Lawson neutralised the lead minutes before the break. Tollygunge got their nose in front soon after change of ends courtesy Laltu Das before Akeem Abolanle made it 3-1 with a brilliant goal. Mongba Aby Samson pulled one back for Mahindra in injury time.
Contrary to coach Aloke Mukherjee’s match-eve expectations, it was an organised performance by the local side. “Yes, my boys played exceptionally well. I must admit the result was beyond my expectation,” Aloke said.
Kicking off in the 3-5-2 formation with Sandip Das and Srikanta Dutta operating from deep to support the backline, Tollygunge were clearly intent on playing safe. Counter-attack was the only route to test Naseem Akhtar under the Mahindra bar.
The Mumbai team had the first chance to score but R.C. Prakash’s third-minute volley brought out the best from a diving Amar Deb under the Tollygunge bar.
Ashim caught the defence napping in the 19th minute when he met Akeem’s left-wing cross unchallenged inside the six-yard zone and the ball was defected off R.P. Singh into the net.
Mahindra equalised three minutes from half-time. Sur Kumar got the ball following a corner-kick, swung in an inviting cross towards the goal and Lawson scored with a copybook header.
Tollygunge again had a close shave when an Abhisek Yadav header went off target. Laltu’s opportunism in the 54th minute restored Tollygunge’s lead. Naseem made a mess of collecting an Amitabha Chanda cross from right and the ball landed in front of Ashim. The Tollygunge striker prodded the ball towards an empty goal, but an alert Debjit Ghosh rushed in desperation to effect a goalline save.
It was, however, a momentary reprieve for the visitors as Laltu, who substituted Srikanta Dutta seconds before Lawson’s goal, came from behind to push it in.
Thirteen minutes later, Tollygunge went two goals clear thanks to Akeem’s intelligence. Amitabha again initiated the move as his cross from the deep found the Nigerian on the right. Akeem dribbled past Syed Hussain, moved further into open space as Naseem left charge and, on the third touch, stroked a lob accurately over the goalkeeper’s head.
A sense of complacency might have crept into the Tollygunge defence when Samson reduced the margin. Fed by Czech midfielder Peter Strandel, Mahindra’s Ivory Coast recruit Samson dashed towards goal and scored with a powerful shot. No Tollygunge defender was around to challenge him.
Mahindra’s Czech Republic coach and former World Cupper Carel Stromcek described Tollygunge as an average team and blamed his defenders for the loss. “When you make mistakes, the other will benefit. Similarly, some of my players made silly mistakes, allowing Tollygunge to win.
“I’m disappointed with the team’s performance. Excepting (Mongba Aby) Samson, nobody impressed me. If you can’t win against an average team like Tollygunge, you are bound to face more troubles in future in the league,” Stromcek said.
Tollygunge Agragami: Amar Deb; Amitabha Chanda, Isiaka Awoyemi, Deb Kumar Shasmol, Dipayan Majumdar; Mehtab Hossain, Sandip Das, Sujoy Dutta, Srikanta Dutta (Laltu Das, 42); Ashim Biswas, Akeem Abolanle.
Mahindra United: Naseem Akhtar; Sur Kumar Singh, Odartey Lawson, Debjit Ghosh; Anthony Pereira (Syed Hussain, 26), James Singh, Khalid Siddiqui (Biby Thomas, 60), R.P. Singh, Peter Strandel; R.C. Prakash, Abhisek Yadav (Mongba Aby Samson, 58).
Referee: S. Bharat Moni (Karnataka).