|Mohun Bagan’s Eric Muranda vies for the ball
with Peerless’ Richard Garisfb, at the Salt Lake
Stadium, on Wednesday. A Telegraph picture
Calcutta: The message was loud and clear. A fit Okolie Odafe needs to be back as early as possible if McDowell Mohun Bagan hope to return to winning ways.
On Wednesday at the Salt Lake Stadium, Bagan overcame a two-goal deficit to split points with Peerless in the Calcutta Football League Premier Division championship round match. This was their second consecutive draw after being held by George Telegraph.
Bagan begin their campaign in the I-League in Bangalore on Sunday and the performance was hardly enterprising. Coach Karim Bencharifa, though, believed that the team was “progressing in the right direction” and would do well.
If their showing in the first half was bereft of ideas, substitute Zakeer Mundampara did provide the zeal upfront in the second session that helped them to bounce back.
Peerless’ Christopher Chizoba and Wasim Raja showed the Bagan defence in poor light time and again. While Peerless created several openings, Bagan forwards lost way in the striking zone.
Christopher shot straight into goalkeeper Sandip Nandy as early as the 18th minute. Three minutes later, Mohun Bagan survived, courtesy Sandip.
Sumit Oraon’s volley was fisted out of harm’s way. Wasim, who was lurking nearby, headed the rebound but goalkeeper came to the rescue again.
Nine minutes later, Wasim put Peerless ahead. An onrushing Sandip foiled Wasim’s shot, and then as the ball ran loose, Wasim was quick to recover ground and slot the ball home.
Bagan were expected to go all out for the equaliser, but failed to show the initiative. The fowardline was rudderless with Katsumi Yusa and Eric Muranda looking lost in the crowd.
The less said the better about Denson Devadas.
To make matters worse, Peerless doubled the lead in the 54th minute. As Sandip misjudged the flight of a long ball, Christopher latched on to it and shielded Rowilson Rodrigues inside the box superbly, before placing it neatly into the net.
By then, panic had gripped the Bagan ranks and Zakeer’s arrival brought about a change in their fortunes. Katsumi pulled one back in the 58th minute after Denson’s shot hit the bar. Zakeer found him in the clear and the Japanese forward scored with a side volley.
Suddenly, Bagan’s moves seemed well directed with Peerless struggling to keep the rival forwards at bay. Zakeer’s shot hit the post after beating the goalkeeper.
The equaliser came in the 81st minute. Sankar Oraon moved down the left and placed the ball on a platter for Eric to place it neatly into the net.
Peerless seemed hell bent on not letting in any more goals, and despite their best efforts, Bagan failed to score the winner.
Peerless: Satish Singh, Raju Kolay, Richard Garisfb, Wasim Raja (Binod Bauri, 76), Munna Malick (James Phiri, 72), Amiya Mondal, Mosso Murmu, Amulya Mondal, Debayan Saha, Christopher Chizoba, Sumit Oraon.
Mohun Bagan: Sandip Nandy, Ravinder Singh, Aiborlang Khongjee, Rowilson Rodrigues, Wahid Muhammed Sali (Kinshuk Debnath, 45), Denson Devadas, Adil Ahmed Khan, Katsumi Yusa, Eric Muranda, CS Sabeeth (Sankar Oraon, 80), Manish Bhargav (Zakeer Mundampara, 56).
Referee: Prabir Dhar