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Sabeeth on the mark

- Bagan begin ifa shield campaign with a win
C.S. Sabeeth’s attempt is thwarted by Dibyendu Sarkar, at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Sunday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: The onus was on Katsumi Yusa and C.S. Sabeeth to come up with the goods and ensure the team didn’t feel Odafa Okolie’s absence.

Katsumi led from the front, initiating attacks and coming close to scoring on several occasions. But Sabeeth did the job that matters most. It was his 32nd-minute strike that won Mohun Bagan their IFA Shield opener by a solitary goal, against United Sikkim FC (USFC), at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Sunday.

Denson Devadas’ corner found an unmarked Sabeeth, who nodded home comfortably. The accuracy of Denson’s corner aside, Sabeeth deserves credit for occupying a perfect position, staying clear of his markers.

The margin could have been bigger for Bagan, but for a couple of Katsumi attempts that were perilously close to the target. Also, Zakeer Mundampara made a mess of a spot-kick awarded in the 84th minute, after Dibyendu Sarkar brought Sabeeth down inside the box.

In other words, a bigger margin could have taken care of Bagan’s goal average at least for the time being, considering the scenario in Group II.

By Karim Bencharifa’s own admission, his team made quite a few mistakes in the game as the flaws, which have been plaguing them throughout this season, are yet to be ironed out.

However, looking at the positive side, Bagan have got off to a winning start and that too, without the services of Odafa, which should make them more confident for their next matches in this group. It always involves an element of risk when you go into a game with the third goalkeeper of your side.

Even though United Sikkim are still minnows in Indian football, there was always going to be some kind of pressure on Monotosh Ghosh, considering the fact that he was the one to take in five goals as the-then USFC ’keeper in their 1-10 drubbing against United SC during last season’s I-League.

On Sunday, though, Monotosh did reasonably well to vindicate the coach’s trust in him, ensuring a clean slate and importantly, an error-free ’keeping. Of course, his task would have been an arduous one to say the least against a stronger opposition.