Calcutta: McDowell Mohun Bagan did not lose the match on Monday, but one guesses that they lost all hopes.
It won’t be wrong to say that it’s as good as over for Bagan, as far as their chances of winning the CFL is concerned, after Karim Bencharifa’s boys played out a 1-1 draw with Mohammedan Sporting, at the Salt Lake Stadium.
Not that the situation was too bright for Bagan as even full points on Sunday would have only kept them just alive, and East Bengal could have won the league with a victory against Kalighat MS. But now, all that Armando Colaco’s side need is a draw from their remaining two matches to be the league winners fourth time on the trot.
Sanjoy Sen-coached Mohammedan Sporting were the better team of the day. Even without two key players — Luciano Sabrosa and Joshimar — they played lively football.
Right from the onset, there was aggression in Mohammedan Sporting’s game, which pegged back Bagan. In the 11th minute their efforts bore fruit. Syed Rahim Nabi stunned Bagan, out-jumping rival defenders to head home an accurate free-kick from Penn Orji.
It was after quite a long time that Nabi made his presence felt against a formidable opposition. Being a senior pro, he led the Mohammedan Sporting midfield admirably, checking Bagan’s moves to a good extent.
But that Nabi’s efforts, along with that of Penn who caught the Bagan defence napping on several occasions, couldn’t see their team victorious was because of Katsumi Yusa pile-driver. Off CS Sabeeth’s final pass, Katsumi unleashed a thunderous shot from the edge of the box to make it 1-1 in the 25th minute.
Bagan did have their share of chances thereafter with Okolie Odafe coming close to finding the target twice in either halves. But otherwise, Mehrajuddin Wadoo and Sandeep Sangha were successful in restricting Odafe for most of the match.
After the breather, the stage was set for a fascinating contest. But crowd trouble, holding up play for 10 minutes, completely changed the tempo of the game.
Referee Uttam Sarkar denying a penalty to Mohammedan Sporting after Pritam Kotal tackled Penn inside the box angered the fans.
Mohammedan Sporting footballers were guilty of heckling the referee and soon their fans joined the action, pelting stones and bottles on the ground.
It looked as if Nabi would be part of another game reminiscent of the infamous December 9, 2012 Derby, but coach Sen’s gesture helped calm the fans.
After play resumed, the players of both sides mostly looked passive. But at the end of the day, Mohammedan Sporting aren’t disappointed at all with the result as they seem to be improving with every game.
Mohammedan Sporting: Luis Barreto, Nirmal Chetri, Sandeep Sangha, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, R. Dhanarjan, Ishfaq Ahmed (Jerry Zirsanga, 69), Anthony Soren, Manish Maithani, Syed Rahim Nabi, Penn Orji, Ashim Biswas
Mohun Bagan: Shilton Paul, Pritam Kotal, Aiborlang Khongjee, Kinshuk Debnath, Shouvik Ghosh, Ram Malik (Zakir Mundampara, 66), Denson Devadas, Pankaj Moula (Sankar Oraon, 66), C.S. Sabeeth, Katsumi Yusa, Okolie Odafe
Referee: Uttam Sarkar
MoM: Syed Rahim Nabi