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Monotosh saves Bagan

Mohun Bagan’s Anyichie Echezona and Manish Maithani of Mohammedan Sporting in an aerial tussle during an IFA Shield Group II match, at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Wednesday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: Mohun Bagan found an unlikely hero in Monotosh Ghosh, here, at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Wednesday.

The goalkeeper, who had the dubious distinction of conceding five goals at the time of his United Sikkim FC days, against United SC in last season’s I-League, exorcised the ghosts at the same venue. United Sikkim had lost that I-League by a humiliating 1-10 scorline.

On Wednesday’s Group II tie, the Sandip Nandy protege made three cruicial saves against Mohammedan Sporting to keep Bagan in the hunt for a semi-final berth of the IFA Shield.

The barren tie saw Mohammedan Sporting through to the semi-finals with seven points. Bagan, who had defeated United Sikkim 1-0, now have four points and still have a match to play, against Dhanmondi Club. And their fortune will depend on the outcome of that match. Bagan need a draw against Dhanmondi to make the semis.

Wednesday’s match was Monotosh’s second of the season. But he showed amazing temperament against the odds.

In the 17th minute, Mohammedan Sporting caught Bagan napping on the break. Joshimar had only Monotosh to beat, but passed the ball to Syed Rahim Nabi on the right.

Nabi’s centre found Joshimar again, but his header on the near post was saved by Monotosh. Then in the 79th minute, Monotosh was in the thick of things once again.

Penn Orji had a clear look at the Bagan goal, but his powerful shot was fisted away by the goalkeeper. Monotosh saved his best for the last. Six minutes before regulation time, Joshimar retrieved a ball beautifully. He had acres of space in front of him.

He darted into the Bagan box and was all set to score when Monotosh came rushing out and made another spectacular save. Surprisingly, it was Penn who was adjudged Man of the Match. Maybe the adjudicator was watching some other match.

For, even though Mohammedan Sporting was all over Bagan for most of the match, it was only because of this man that Bagan managed to eke out a point. “Monotosh had a great match… Hats off to him,” coach Karim Bencharifa said.

“It’s not easy for someone, who spent most of the season on the bench, to come out and play a match like this,” Karim added.

Mohammedan Sporting started with a 4-5-1 formation and soon started flexing their muscles. Rakesh Masih did well to nullify Katsumi Yusa, wideman Ram Malik could not go past Nirmal Chettri while on the left, R. Dhanarajan had Pankaj Moula in his pocket.

To make matters worse for Karim, Denson Devadas twisted his ankle while going for a tackle.

The Bagan midfield was in complete disarray in the second half and Okolie Odafa’s introduction in the 46th minute only added to the problem. The Bagan captain, who was playing his first match since he injured his hamstring during the Federation Cup semi-final, didn’t look to be at ease at all and was glaringly unfit.

He was in pain after taking a free-kick midway through the second half and looks certain to miss the crucial match against Dhanmondi Club.

“I do not think he will be fit for our next match. I am taking one match at a time. So, whether he is ruled out the tournament or not is difficult to say,” Karim said.

Surely Bagan and Odafe’s season have gone from bad to worse.

The Teams

Mohammedan Sporting: Luis Baretto; Nirmal Chettri, Luciano Sabrosa, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, R Dhanarajan; Israil Gurung (Ishfaq Ahmed, 61), Penn Orji, Rakesh Masih (Sandeep Sangha, 51), Manish Maithani, Syed Rahim Nabi, Joshimar (Dipendu Biswas, 90+1).

Mohun Bagan: Monotosh Ghosh; Pritam Kotal, Anyichie Echezona, Kingshuk Debnath, Aiborlang Khongjee, Ram Malik (Sankar Oraon, 69, Katsumi Yusa, Denson Devadas (Okolie Odafa, 46), Pankaj Maula, Zakeer Mundampara, CS Sabaeth (Wahid Sali, 83).

Referee: M.B. Santhosh Kumar

MoM: Penn Orji