| Dejected Mohammed Rafique (from left), Arnab Mondal and Ranty Martins, on Sunday. A Telegraph picture |
Calcutta: A group of players about whom Armando Colaco had no idea, left East Bengal stunned.
Mohammedan Sporting had no stars as such to hog the limelight. But they seemed determined to prove their capabilities to the East Bengal coach.
In what was a perfect response to the indifference meted out to them, Mohammedan Sporting prevailed 1-0 over their high-flying opponents to get their CFL Championship Round campaign off to a dream start, at the Salt Lake Stadium, here, on Sunday.
Young Imran Khan scored in the 25th minute that eventually went on to separate the two sides. No doubt, Imran was a bit fortunate as his left-footer found the target only after a deflection from Mehtab Hussain.
Now, you do need some fortune when up against arguably the strongest side in the competition. That said, Mohammedan Sporting were all over East Bengal since taking the lead.
In a space of two minutes, ’keeper Abhra Mondal effected as many saves. Diving onto his left to deny a Basanta Singh header in the 31st minute before blocking an Irfan Khan attempt soon after, Abhra averted further trouble for his team, ensuring the opponents didn’t run away with the game.
East Bengal’s defence was in tatters during that period, and with a midfield looking absolutely non-functional, it appeared as if Colaco’s men are in for a severe thrashing.
They should also have been reduced to 10-men, but referee Ajit Dutta surprisingly allowed Safar Sardar to escape with a yellow card. Shoulder-charging MC Malsuamluala intentionally, Safar should straightaway have been given marching orders.
East Bengal, though, were the better side after the change of ends, creating ample chances. The juniors — Jiten Murmu, Deepak Tirkey and Kishan Bag (coming in as a substitute) — impressed with frequent inroads into the Mohammedan Sporting defence, but they just couldn’t get the equaliser.
Ranty Martins, braving an ankle injury, twice came perilously close to levelling the scores. But after being denied by the far post first, another attempt from the Nigerian was saved at the goalline by Ugochukwu Godswill’s unbelievable piece of clearance.
Godswill had a fantastic game, as it was his presence at the heart of the defence that kept East Bengal at bay despite their barrage of attacks during the second session. Add to that goalkeeper Arnab Das Sharma’s performance under the bar, which made East Bengal’s task further difficult.
At the end of the day, Mohammedan Sporting were certainly the deserving winners.
Mohammedan Sporting: Arnab Das Sharma; Lal Daniela, Sunil Kumar, Ugochukwu Godswill, Rajiv Ghosh (Sukhdev Murmu, 74); Phoolchand Hembram; Basanta Singh, Santosh Oraon (Samuel Laltianthanga, 68), Irfan Khan, Imran Khan; MC Malsuamluala
East Bengal: Abhra Mondal; Abhishek Das, Safar Sardar, Arnab Mondal, Saumik Dey; Deepak Tirkey (Kishan Bag, 66), Mehtab Hussain, Sukhwi-nder Singh (Manas Sarkar, 84), Mohammed Rafique; Jiten Murmu, Ranty Martins
Man of the Match: Arnab Das Sharma
Referee: Ajit Dutta