| Jose Ramirez Barreto heads in Mohun Bagan’s fourth goal against Tollygunge Agragami at Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: The aura of Jose Ramirez Barreto as a player and leader first glowed and then illuminated his team into a beautiful spectacle as Mohun Bagan cruised to the 109th Chlor-Mint IFA Shield final, humbling Tollygunge Agragami 4-1 at Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday.
The Brazilian scored twice and set up another for his countrymate Marcos Parreira as Mohun Bagan rose to the occasion in elegance and devastating dynamism. Before that, Rishi Kapoor’s 21st-minute scrappy lead was neutralised for Tollygunge Agragami within a couple of minutes by Isiaka Awoyemi.
Barreto led from the front while captain Rennedy Singh underwent one of those forgettable days. But it hardly made any difference as Mohun Bagan were far superior in tactics and work-rate, rendering the contest into a battle of men against boys, nous against naivety.
Humbled and humiliated, Tollygunge, and may be others, must have awakened to the truth that this Aloke Mukherjee-coached side are now not only improved, but audacious too — a far far cry from how and in what fashion they had kicked off the season.
The match surprisingly had a cracking start, with players switching ends in a fast-paced jamboree and both goalkeepers desperately trying to come to terms with it.
Tollygunge had the first look at the goal in the 11th minute, but Akeem Abolanle’s evasion of Sanjeev Maria’s challenge was too quick to shock goalkeeper Prasanta Dora. Within three minutes came the riposte from the opposite end when Sunil Chhetri’s header off a Kapoor cross hit the inside of the crossbar. This was followed by another sweeping move — this time from Tollygunge Agragami. Akeem’s centre from left found Manik Sarkar in the far end, and the latter had hell of a time and space to work on it. Instead, the Tollygunge midfielder took a shot in haste and missed the target by miles.
Mohun Bagan’s lead, however, was occasioned in a bizarre fashion and goalkeeper Chinmay Banerjee had only himself to blame for conceding it. He completely misjudged the flight of Kapoor’s inswinging cross from the left, while being more interested in keeping a tab on nearby Barreto. When the ball crashed into the net, he was about two metres away from his line and breathing close to the Brazilian.
Mohun Bagan’s joy, though, was shortlived. Both Dora and Isiaka went for a Temzen Kaibang corner and the Nigerian beat his challenger in the air to restore parity.
The rest of the first half became a celebration of missed chances, till Tollygunge Agragami folded in the teeth of Mohun Bagan pressure.
Aloke masterminded the complete turnaround by introducing Babun Kar on the right when play resumed after 45 minutes. Rennedy switched to the left and Mehtab Hossain was now given more space to operate in the middle. The fallout of such rearrangements in the field was immediate and breathtaking. Barreto restored the lead within three minutes of the restart. Mehtab squared a pass from the right and Barreto’s quickfire attempt at it took a deflection off Partha Sarathi Dey and went in.
The surprise arrival of injured Marcos Parreira in the 59th minute — Aloke later related it to the urgency of the hour — was the next blow to an already tiring Tollygunge rearguard. Marcos scored — 13 minutes thereafter — in possibly the best move of the match. Mehtab again fed Marcos and the Brazilian quickly released it for Barreto. The latter chipped it in the path of his countrymate inside the box, who coolly placed it from close.
Marcos again came close to scoring in another deadly Brazilian combination before Barreto completed the scoreline two minutes from time. Mehtab’s right-wing centre found Mohun Bagan No. 10 in perfect position to finish the demolition job.
Mohun Bagan: Prasanta Dora; Manitombi Singh, Deb Kumar Sashmal (Harpreet Singh, 79), Sanjeev Maria, Lolendra Singh (Babun Kar, 45); Mehtab Hossain, Rennedy Singh, Palash Karmakar, Rishi Kapoor; Jose Ramirez Barreto, Sunil Chhetri (Marcos Parreira, 59).
Tollygunge Agragami: Chinmay Banerjee; Gautam Debnath, Isiaka Awoyemi, Kajal Bhattacharya, Partha Sarathi Dey; Manik Barman (Sujit Neogi, 75), Shamsi Reza, Amit Das (Laltu Kumar Das, 86), Suman Dutta (Chinmay Sarkar, 82); Temzen Kaibang, Akeem Abolanle.
Referee: A. Arjunan (SSCB).