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EB ride strikes from Bijen, Sasthi

Calcutta, Sept. 13: Not much else was expected on Saturday. East Bengal beating Mohammadan AC 2-0 in their Super Division championship leg match at home isnít news enough. Just the fact that the goals came in the 52nd and 86th minutes, jars a bit. Bijen Singh and Sasthi Duley were the scorers.

The turf was as bad as it was when play could not start on Friday. Today, though it seemed good enough for a thrashabout, probably because the rain had eased by kick-off time. The soccer, though, remained as slushy and soggy as the weather.

Mike Okoro, expectedly, wasnít around, and Suley Musah was atop the field, with Bijen and K. Kulothungan just a coattail behind. Douglas da Silva was just ahead of midfield, sometimes falling back into retrieval, while one didnít quite like the deep role for Duley. More would have been achieved, perhaps, had he loped up the flank in help earlier in the match.

The long ball was the done thing, sure: the watery surface has a quick affinity for it when on a roll. And then there was this sheer mess at the goalmouth. It was a bit like mud-wrestling, with a football. Thatís why, in the 16th minute, when Bijen forwarded charge into the box, Musah slid in, only for his shot to take the person of prone Mohammedan AC goalkeeper Shankar Dey and balloon out.

And that was why, eight minutes later, Shariat Reza could body-charge Musah into a wild shot from inside the box, reaching íkeeper Dey. The non-striking foot getting little purchase on the slush, there was a slew of long-rangers, mostly off target.

In the 47th minute a Mohammedan AC move started in the mid-third as Lowell Gabenga tapped sideways. Two headers neatly took the ball into the rival box and to R. Benjamin who was quickly at the goalmouth with the íkeeper out of charge. Benjamin shot, but Mahesh Gawli made a last-ditch save from almost the goalline.

Soon after, Bijen brought East Bengal back to dry land when he shot home a back-centre by Douglas.

A Sur Kumar Singh miss later (a Bijen offering, shot awry), Musah was up the right on long strides and into the box. He lifted a centre to the left and Duley was on it in a trice, goal-directed. It was probably the only move in the match that was a treat to watch.

Another notable character onfield was referee Partha Rout Roy. His rather small built belied his energy and courage. His actions ó a lot of nervous energy ó drew criticism from the crowd but then, after the match, some made it a point to go up and shake his hand. A refreshing role in supervision.

TEAMS

East Bengal: Sandip Nandy, Sur Kumar Singh, M. Suresh, Mahesh Gawli, Sasthi Duley, Debjit Ghosh, Dipankar Roy (Arunava Sarkar, 49), Douglas da Silva, Suley Musah, Bijen Singh, K. Kulothungan (Chandan Das, 29; Tushar Rakshit, 70).

Mohammedan AC: Shankar Dey, Sarwar Ali, Shariat Reza, Md. Ali Reza, Soumik Dey, Shakeel Ahmed (Jamir Ali Mondal, 80), Lowell Gabenga, Subrata Guha, Najim-ul Haque (Bastab Roy, 70), Arup Sarkar, R. Benjamin.

Referee: Partha Rout Roy.

Match washed out

Another Super Division match of the day, between Tollygunge Agragami and Ever-Ready, scheduled at the Mohammedan Sporting ground, could not be played because of poor underfoot conditions. Both teams were willing to play, but the referee Pijush Biswas decided against it. It will be held on Sunday at East Bengal ground.

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