| Mohun Bagan's Ashim Biswas (second from left) and Sunil Chhetri vie for the ball with Tollygunge Agragami's Tenzen Kibang at the Mohun Bagan ground Tuesday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Slipping from their sparkling start, Mohun Bagan had lost lustre by their second outing in the Calcutta Football League’s Super Division. At home Tuesday, Bagan’s was a damp show, salvaged only through an excellent second half free-kick goal from Rennedy Singh that saw them past Tollygunge Agragami.
The underfoot conditions were better than the first match, though the drying soil can sometimes produce a greater drag. The humidity also possibly did not help, but then these weren’t specific to the home team.
Bagan moved into attack mode from the start. However, scrappy midfield action did not quite help in organising things at the goalmouth. Added was the pressure of a crowded defence and mostly pot shots accrued. Sunil Chettri was around the goalmouth in the fifth minute when a lob from Rennedy reached the spot, but three Tollygunge defenders cut him out.
Instead of interesting possibilities, the latent knowledge of the rival teams of both coaches resulted in caution. Bagan did throw a good deal of initiative upfront, but that was more on the energy of a young set than on strategic manoeuvres. Tollygunge moves were more individualistic, there being a dearth of a plan to utilise space.
The good crowd (even the ramparts were full), failed to get to see any special move, any flank runs, or any manner of cohesion. Bagan striker Ashim Biswas, as expected, was tightly marked, as was Chhetri and Rennedy. But while Tollygunge used precious manpower in this effort, Bagan failed to capitalise on this gap.
Also in view — especially with the derby match versus East Bengal coming up Saturday — was the rather porous nature of the Bagan defence. While ’keeper Imran Khan has been steady and wingback Manitombi Singh has shown a penchant for the overlap, Harpreet Singh and Rishi Kapoor have not been too steady in the deep.
Added to that has been the rather indifferent form of midfielder (hoping to act centrally) Hardeep Saini. Maybe a yet-to-heal thigh injury is the reason.
The goal came two minutes onto the second session. A foul on Basudeb Mondal resulted in a free-kick on top of the Tollygunge box. Rennedy instep right-footer swung around the ‘wall’ and quickly entered the goal, leaving ’keeper Chinmoy Banerjee flummoxed.
That did not quite spur Bagan on. Instead, Tollygunge were suddenly running around the Bagan goalmouth. Those ‘runs’, however, were too disorganised, and not really productive.
In the 53rd minute Tollygunge could have gone ahead, had Imran not been able to tip over a powerful 30-yard volley from substitute Prakash Koley. Six minutes later Soumen Dutta tried another and Imran reacted in as fine a manner.
Ashim Biswas could have provided Bagan another goal in the 67th minute when he ran up the right and on a ’keeper challenge, backpassed to Mehtab Hossein. Mehtab lobbed to the goalmouth, but Hardeep Gill rose to head out from close.
Tollygunge remain winless, having drawn their last two, while Bagan have won both their matches.
Mohun Bagan coach Aloke Mukherjee later blamed the bad underfoot conditions for his team’s lackadaisical display. “This isn’t the best way to play,” he said. “Also, Ashim’s injury is such that I will have to deal with it with much care, especially with the derby match in sight.
“I am sure when the stars come in — Jose Ramirez Barreto arrives Wednesday afternoon — things will settle down quickly,” he said. “Also, I need a little time for the youngsters to settle down in their places.”
Mohun Bagan: Imran Khan, Debkumar Shasmal, Harpreet Singh (Balkar Singh, 63), Manitombi Singh, Rishi Kapoor, Rennedy Singh, Hardeep Saini (Abahy Kumar, 75), Basudeb Mondal, Mehtab Hossain, Ashim Biswas, Sunil Chhetri (Hardeep Gill, 46).
Tollygunge Agragami: Chinmoy Banerjee, Kabijit Khotal, Partha Sarathi Dey, Sujit Neogi, Kajal Bhattacharya, Tenzen Kibang (Prakash Koley, 46), Shamsi Reza, Sandip Das (Chinmoy Sarkar, 68), Soumen Dutta, Debashis Giri (Laltu das, 19), Koustav Ghosh.
Referee: Supriya Bhattacharya.