| Jose Ramirez Barreto and Mehtab Hussain celebrate a goal against Mohammedan Sporting during the National League opener at Salt Lake Stadium on Friday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: You just canít keep the Brazilian quiet. On a day when Mohun Bagan struggled against Mohammedan Sporting, the magic touch of Jose Ramirez Barreto ensured the green-and-maroon brigade full points in their National Football League opener on Friday.
After Rennedy Singh put Bagan in the lead, Barreto scored a brilliant goal late in the second session shutting out a resurgent Mohammedan Sporting.
But it was once again evident that more than playmakers, what Bagan need is a quality defender. The way a mediocre Mohammedan Sporting attack tore open their defence in the second session, Bagan might face serious trouble countering more difficult opposition.
The game started on a bright note for Mohun Bagan as they started taking possession of the midfield. Also, with Ashim Biswas back in full swing, they made incisive inroads into the opposition territory.
But with Barreto a little off-colour in the first session, the former champions found it a little hard to break the deadlock.
It was heartening to see Mohun Bagan use the flanks, especially the right, with dexterity. With Mehtab and Rennedy feeding well, Ashim ensured a steady flow of balls from the right.
Mohammedan Sporting, on the other hand, fell back in defence trying to stop the Bagan forays right in front of their defensive third. But Mohun Bagan have a few good shooters in their ranks and they tried long-rangers time and again.
In fact, the first goal, in the 33rd minute, was the product of such an effort. As Hardeep Gill failed to make his way into the Mohammedan Sporting penalty area, he played a square pass to Rennedy. The captainís 30-yard right-footer wasnít too venomous, but opposition íkeeper Gumpe Rime allowed the ball to squeeze through his hands into the net.
The black-and-white brigade were playing a counter-attack based game but their sporadic attacks were enough to put severe doubts on how the Harpreet Singhs and Sanjeev Marias will do against more fancied opposition.
Mohammedan Sporting could easily have gone 1-0 up in the 29th minute when Chidi Edeh put Amjad Ali Khan through, but the latter failed to go past Prasanta Dora.
Edeh, in fact, had a reasonable game. He played some meaningful passes, but Dipendu Biswas and Rahim Nabi were just not good enough to utilise those.
Indian coach Stephen Constantine had dropped the duo from the Indian team, and it was a golden opportunity to prove the Anglo-Cypriot, who was present at the ground, wrong.
But while Nabi, who was asked to operate down the flanks, was a total flop, Dipendu could never take the responsibility of the senior man upfront.
Still Mohammedan Sporting dominated the second session, but the Bagan íkeeper stood tall to negate the attacks that were flying in.
As the NFL debutants looked like having a strong grip over the game, Barreto killed them off.
He played the ball towards the right and Manitombi for once, made a good overlap and kept the ball at the right place. Barreto met the ball at the first post and made a brilliant outstep flick that found the far corner of the net.
Mohun Bagan: Prasanta Dora, Mani Tombi Singh, Sanjeeb Maria (Palash Karmakar, 26), Harpreet Singh, Lolendra Singh (Rishi Kapoor), Mehtab Hussain, Rocus Lamare, Hardeep Gill, Rennedy Singh (Basudeb Mondal, 64), Jose Ramirez Barreto, Ashim Biswas
Mohammedan Sporting: Gumpe Rime, Hossain Mustafi, Okoli Onyeka Odafa, Manas Das, Rahim Nadi, Shahnawaz Iqbal Khan, John Ugwu, Khalid Siddiqui (Arjan Ali, 66), Dipendu Biswas, Chidi Edeh.
Referee: M.K. Roy