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Bagan hold slender edge
- CALCUTTA FOOTBALL LEAGUE TIE vs MOHAMMEDAN SPORTING

Calcutta: Rivals Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting go into Monday’s derby, with three wins each and fighting for the league leader’s position in the Premier Division of the Sahara CFL. Mohun Bagan hold a slender single point lead in the points tally and look to have the advantage over an injury-hit Mohammedan Sporting, ahead of the clash at the Salt Lake Stadium.

Both teams have shown some indifferent form in their last match. A determined Port Trust side played out a goalless draw against Bagan while Shabbir Ali’s black-and-white brigade were outplayed by an efficient George Telegraph outfit on Friday. But Mohammedan Sporting’s Shabbir Ali and Mohun Bagan coach Karim Bencharifa have both vowed to go for all three points on Monday. The two men at the helm might well be forced to shuffle their line-ups after injury problems cropped up in both ranks.

Mohammedan Sporting’s much touted striking duo of Mike Okoro and Theodore Sunday both skipped practice on the eve of the match. Sunday, carrying a niggling thigh strain said: “I am not 100 per cent fit… I consulted the team doctor and decided to skip practice… But I hope I’ll be fully fit tomorrow (Monday), for I am desperate to play.”

His strike partner Okoro is reportedly down with fever. But both are expected to play a part in Monday’s tie. Mohun Bagan, meanwhile, will be missing the raw pace and creativity of Ishfaq Ahmed (out with a hamstring injury) down the wings and the finishing prowess of young Branco Cardozo (out with a knee problem).

For Bencharifa, this will be his first Calcutta derby and the Moroccan was quietly confident after putting his boys through the pace in Sunday’s training session. He said: “I have full faith in my squad and I am not worried about the opposition…

“I am a result-oriented coach and this (Mohun Bagan) is a result-oriented club, so we will be looking for the full three points.”

Scoring might not be a problem for either side, having pumped in a combined tally of seventeen goals in eight matches. The Mohun Bagan coach might look to contain the dangerous Sunday, by marking him closely as Raghu Nandy’s boys successfully did at the Barasat stadium. When asked whether he’ll be employed in a deeper role to avoid being marked, Sunday himself ruled out that possibility saying he is not fit enough to take on too much workload.

Shabbir Ali, meanwhile, will have to find ways of blocking Lalkamal Bhowmick’s vision in the midfield and the runs of Malswamtluanga and Lal Ramluaha down the touchlines.

Naseem Akhtar is likely to start in goal for Mohammedan Sporting, in place of Imran Khan who has looked shaky at times.

While both teams went through their usual practice drills, Bencharifa’s boys looked sharper and higher on confidence as compared to the Mohammedan Sporting players. The Mohun Bagan coach paid special attention to his team’s positional play as he divided his boys in two teams and played a practice match.

Naveen Kumar, not a regular in the first team, played as one of the wingers and looked to have impressed his coach.

With two shrewd tacticians trying to out think each other and a bunch of players eager to impress, the second derby of the Sahara CFL should be as exciting as the first, where Mohammedan Sporting came up trumps against East Bengal on July 20.

LAST 10 PREMIER DIVISION MEETINGS

2003

  • Aug 28: MB 1 Md. Sp. 0
  • Sep 13: MB1 Md. Sp. 1

2004

  • Aug 1: MB 3 Md. Sp. 0
  • Sept 23: MB 2 Md. Sp. 2

2005

  • Aug 28: MB 2 Md. Sp. 0
  • Oct 9: MB 2 Md. Sp. 2

2006

  • Aug 20: Md. Sp. 2 MB 1
  • Sept 20: MB 1 Md. Sp. 0

2007

  • Aug 26: MB 0 Md. Sp. 0
  • Nov 17: MB 1 Md. Sp. 0

HEAD TO HEAD

Mohun Bagan lead Mohammedan Sporting 47-16 in 116 matches. 53 matches were drawn.

HARI PRASAD CHATTOPADHYAY

KEY MEN

MOHUN BAGAN

Jose Ramirez Barreto — Mohun Bagan’s darling, the experienced Brazilian will be one of the men to watch out for, as always. To avoid markers Barreto has been operating from a little deeper, playing the role of a sweeping forward. Mohammedan Sporting would be hoping that he doesn’t turn it on in his usual style.

Peter Odafe — The big central defender has been the biggest success story for a defence that has let in a single goal in their four matches in the CFL so far. Odafe’s anticipation, tackling and presence will have to be razor sharp to keep Sunday and Okoro at bay. Odafe’s long throw and his presence in the opposition box during corners and free kicks will be an added advantage for Bagan.

MOHAMMEDAN SPORTING

Mike Okoro — The Nigerian striker may not be in the same vein of form as he was during his East Bengal days, but on his day he can still wreak havoc. Against arch-rivals Mohun Bagan, Okoro, would be looking to take on the role of the playmaker, creating openings for strike partner Theodore Sunday.

Theodore Sunday — The Liberian marksman has become quite the crowd favourite after his match winning performance against East Bengal. He will hope to shake off his injury as well as his marker on Monday, in a bid to score in his second ‘big match’ of the league.

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