Penn Orji (left) and Ishfaq Ahmed during practice at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Friday. A Telegraph picture
Calcutta: Guess whom Mohammedan Sporting are drawing inspiration from on the eve of the IFA Shield final against Dhanmondi Club? Well, it’s none other than Manchester City!
The club had won the 2011-2012 English Premier League title after a gap of 44 years when Sergio Aguero scored that injury-time goal pipping their much-celebrated neighbours, Manchester United, at the post.
Mohammedan Sporting want to do something similar. The last time they won the IFA Shield was in 1971 and, on Saturday, if they manage to go past Dhaka’s Dhanmondi Club, at the Salt Lake Stadium, they will be winning the title after a 43-year wait.
“I have told my boys about the Man City story. They waited for 44 years for their second English League title. On Saturday, we would give our best to end the 43-year wait,” coach Sanjoy Sen was saying after the festival-like practice session at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Friday.
But then Sanjoy Sen knows there is many a slip between the cup and the lip. As United SC coach, he had lost the IFA Shield final to East Bengal in a penalty shoot-out and there was heartbreak in the Durand Cup also a few years back.
And Dhanmondi has enough ammunition to spoil the mood. In Sony Nordy, they have a very flamboyant playmaker, while Wedson Anelme and Emeka Darlington complement him brilliantly. The trio, in fact, ran roughshod over a hapless East Bengal in the semi-final, just the other day.
Sony, in particular, is dangerous from the set-pieces and that’s something Mohammedan Sporting should be wary of. They cannot afford to concede free-kicks to Dhanmondi inside 30 yards, because if that happens it may spell doom for the Calcutta club. Mohammedan Sporting’s defence — where Luciano Sabrosa and Mehrajuddin Wadoo have combined well at the heart of defence — has to be very careful.
Playing 4-5-1 ever since Sen took over the reins from Abdul Aziz Moshood, Mohammedan Sporting have been very compact defensively. And defensive blocker Rakesh Masih has been a very important cog in the Mohammedan Sporting wheel.
Mohammedan Sporting are fretting over Masih’s fitness as the former India international is nursing an ankle injury. Sen is yet to take a call on him.
Ditto with Ashim Biswas, who is also making a comeback from injury. “Both of them will be in the 18-man squad, but I will have to see whether they can last 90 minutes,” he said. Sen has other options. Ishfaq Ahmed or Israil Gurung are very comfortable playing wide with the former having much better defensive qualities.
Mohammedan Sporting’s bane is poor rate of conversion. Joshimar, who plays as the single striker, loses confidence in front of the goal and that has let the team down time and again. Even in the Federation Cup last group league match, where they needed to win versus Dempo, the Brazilian was guilty of muffing chances.
This is the second time the two teams are meeting. In the group stage match, Mohammedan Sporting had come back from a goal down to win 2-1. But the final will be a different ball game. The Dhanmondi Club are no pushovers. They will not yield an inch without giving a fight and will be ready to spoil Mohammedan Sporting’s party.