| Rennedy Singh heads in Mohun Bagan’s matchwinner past Dempo defender Valeriano Rebelo at the Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Mohun Bagan captain Rennedy Singh led from the front with a brilliant matchwinner to hand Dempo Sporting Club their maiden defeat in the National Football League on Wednesday.
The 57th-minute goal also captured the essence of a team — under pressure and desperate to turn the tide back in their favour at a time when off-field chaos threatened to overtake on-field happenings.
Wednesday’s Salt Lake Stadium, in a way, also was witness to how the game of football transcends the boundary of individualism. Mohun Bagan’s elevation from a Jose Ramirez Barreto-oriented monolith to a team-game structure was perhaps needed for the betterment of the game as a whole.
And Rennedy’s goal may just be the necessary beginning for the green-and-maroon brigade to live in a world without their most precious possession in contemporary Indian football.
Mohun Bagan started in such a fashion that the players’ inspiration completely overshadowed an otherwise inexplicable situation surrounding them.
In the very second minute, Ashim Biswas got a ball from Leonardo, but the former’s feeble push was not enough to beat Abhijit Mondal.
Mohun Bagan custodian — rookie Bilifang Narzary — then, experienced a bit of mixed fortunes. First, he denied Sunday Seah near the top box and then almost conceded a goal while negotiating an innocuous backpass from Harpreet Singh.
The three-time champions responded to that knee-jerking moment with a couple of superb attempts from dead-ball situations.
In the 27th minute, Mehtab Hossain’s long-ranger was acrobatically tipped by Abhijit over the bar. Then, within two minutes, came a curling Rennedy free-kick that crashed onto the far post. A couple of more inviting crosses from the Mohun Bagan No. 8 fell in empty spaces with no reinforcement following them.
The veteran Basudeb Mondal, on the other hand, suddenly seemed to have got back to his prime, caressing the midfield with quick, inviting passes and keeping the supply line in full flow towards the rival box.
Ashim, up front, was fluttering like a bee, teasing the defenders with audacity and also a touch of disdain.
All this combined to make the home team look like a side in new avatar. Rennedy’s goal just kind of added a much-anticipated spice to their efforts.
After Ashim’s flick hit the post again immediately after the breather, the second move culminated in the matchwinner. A nice one-two between Mehtab and Babun Kar released Ashim on the right. The diminutive forward sprinted up, took his time and floated a perfect cross for his captain to head home.
Dempo almost equalised within two minutes of the setback, thanks to a callous Harpreet Singh. The defender’s shocking clearance of a right-wing cross took a vicious turn towards his own goal. An alert Narzary, however, stretched himself back in the air in time to save his colleague from the blushes. Harpreet immediately rushed to the goalkeeper to congratulate him and he had every reason to do it.
Mohun Bagan survived another close call when a Majeek Bolaji shot struck the upright.
Dempo tried their best to bring matters to normalcy. But Mohun Bagan’s push for a turnaround was so deeply-motivated that it easily outclassed the dogged character of the Goans.
Mohun Bagan: Bilifang Narzary; Babun Kar, Sanjeev Maria (Rocus Lamare, 16), Harpreet Singh, Rishi Kapoor; Mehtab Hossain, Basudeb Mondal, Leonardo, Rennedy Singh; Ashim Biswas, Hardip Gill (Sunil Chhetri, 66).
Dempo: Abhijit Mondal; Valeriano Rebelo, Stanley Colaco, Majeek Bolaji, Melvin Rodrigues, Sameer Naik; Mohammed Gaffari, Nacimento Silveira (Mario Soares, 80), Clifford Miranda (Raju Singh, 42), Sunday Seah (Alex Ambroso, 53), R.C. Prakash.
Referee: S. Suresh (Tamil Nadu).