| Barreto gets past Villy at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta, Jan. 25: The injuries didn’t matter in the end. Two fit players and a jittery opposition were enough to put Mohun Bagan back on track in the OIL-PSU National Football League (NFL).
Bagan beat Indian Bank 4-0 at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday turf by Jose Ramirez Barreto and George Ekeh.
Rennedy Singh got a beauty 13 minutes into the game. Forty-five minutes later, Ekeh consolidated. Barreto then got into the act, scoring two opportunistic goals in the final 11 minutes to complete the 4-0 rout.
The brace brought up Barreto’s 100th goal for Mohun Bagan, in only his fourth season.
“It’s great to have completed 100 goals, I dedicate it to my fans,” the Brazilian said later. “My mind goes back to the first goal I scored for Mohun Bagan (versus Dempo in Goa in the 1999-2000 NFL edition).”
The two-time champions took their points tally to a healthier 15 from nine games — six adrift of leaders East Bengal. The bankmen remained on 11.
It didn’t take long for Mohun Bagan — coming off a month-long break — to make their presence felt. With the Chennai outfit obsessed with defence, it wasn’t difficult for Ekeh, Barreto and Rennedy to get a stranglehold on proceedings.
Basudeb Mondal wasn’t in his elements, but that hardly made a difference. Man-of-the-Match Ekeh, a real hustler with boundless energy, was all over the park — blocking, snatching and distributing with great ease.
Within 10 minutes of kick-off, young Sunil Chhetri came close to scoring twice. His fifth-minute header was scrambled off the goalline while his push from eight yards in the 10th minute didn’t have the punch to test goalkeeper Felix Edward.
Rennedy’s goal was top drawer. He chanced upon a deflection and, from the edge of the penalty box, fired a high angular shot over Edward.With Ekeh taking such a heavy load, Barreto could afford to operate from a ‘smaller’ zone in rival territory. The Brazilian created balls for Chhetri and Ekeh, but himself missed some of the easiest chances. Like when he couldn’t beat Edward in a one-to-one situation. Or when his push from six yards went straight to the keeper.
Ekeh missed a couple before blasting in a right-footer from a Barreto prompt.
Barreto’s first goal — the team’s third — was off a smart header. Rennedy’s accurate cross from the left flank was first headed on by Ekeh. It wasn’t travelling in the right direction, but Barreto flicked it smartly to change the ball’s course. Four minutes from full time, a powerful Amar Ganguly volley ricocheted off Edward’s hands and Barreto was right there to tap the ball into an untenanted goal.
Mohun Bagan: Bivash Ghosh, Dulal Biswas, Yakubu, Satish Bharti, Lolendra Singh (Santosh Singh, 85), Sunil Chhetri (Sheik Sanjib, 41), Basudeb Mondal (Amar Ganguly, 82), Kajal Bhattacharya, Rennedy Singh, Jose Ramirez Barreto, George Ekeh.
Indian Bank: Felix Edward, David Maria Gerald, Anthony Noel, Anandarajan, Villy, Harish, Mohammed Bin Hassan (Imran Mohammed, 66), Nathaniel (Joseph, 87), K.N. Jeyasuriya, Stanley Festus, Sabir Pasha.
Referee: Rizwan-ul-Haque (Delhi)