EB win boosts Bagan chances
I knew we could do it, says Subhas
Bagan not taking anything for granted vs Dempo
DKS best
Malhotra�s clinic opens March 10
Poor response to big stakes

Calcutta, Feb. 21: 
Today�s victory was quite a double-edged sword. It saw East Bengal turn around, confident yet again, and also shovelled a metalled pathway to the title for Mohun Bagan. The rest depends on the green-maroon brigade.

Churchill Brothers today gave up a 1-0 lead in their National Football League engagement, conceded two goals, had key Ukrainian striker Andriy Malchevsky marched out, and broke a nail or two in the futile last-ditch clawing. With Malchevsky out now for a couple of matches, the current leaders (till a match-short Mohun Bagan attempt to take over tomorrow) will be at a disadvantage versus a strong FC Kochin next match.

Malchevsky gave Churchill the lead in the 22nd minute, Brazilian Ossius Luis Ferreira headed in the reply three minutes adrift, and Dipankar Roy pushed the red-golds through in the 47th minute.

Churchill started it first. They threw the challenge and attacked. But that was in the first few minutes, before Seikh Sanjib took charge from Carlton Chapman and, in typical Seikh Sanjib style, shot straight into goalkeeper Edward Ansah. That was probably when the Calcutta outfit suddenly realised they actually formed the East Bengal team!

That dose of adrenaline was necessary. Wingplay was initiated, effectively, sidetracking stopper Osumanu Husseini who was at his usual best today too. Sanjib was the irritant that disturbed his concentration. That was about when Carlton Chapman shot weakly into Ansah.

The counterattack, of course, was dying to happen. Somatai Shaiza worked hard today, kneading the width of the field, and pushing initiatives. First helping, and Rocky Barreto was up the right, to near the corner flag and a back-centred lob was at Malchevsky�s foot. Who is to blame? Nobody even tried to stop the prompt volley that shot into the netting.

At the other end, immediately, Sanijib had done his bit again: messing up from close. Thankfully, Falguni Dutta took the flag kick that accrued from Ansah�s spilled save. And thankfully, too, Ossius was around to lend his height and head for his fourth goal in four matches.

Red-golds shook off a load of silted lethargy, though tempers failed to stay reined in. Referee Michael Andrews handled situations rather poorly: a couple of early bookings could have nipped in the bud what ended in the ouster. The stands were sparsely populated, or trouble would have spread beyond. Jackson Egygopong and Andriy were booked, but that was too late.

The East Bengal winner came swiftly. Emmanuel Opoku moved up and passed Dipankar Roy in the box. That was before the Churchill defence, Husseini included, had had a chance to settle down. Ansah charged out and Dipankar released. The ball rolled in.

East Bengal managed to keep the pressure up, before action returned to their doorstep in the 21st minute. Andriy was into the East Bengal box as Chapman and Anit Ghosh challenged. Andriy tripped, in what looked very much like an unfair tackle.

The referee remained unmoved, though. That infuriated Andriy and he charged, pushing at the man in black. The red card was a matter of formality. It would anyway have been red because of the earlier card, but the straight red means a longer expiation time.

Down to ten, though, Churchill looked even more dangerous. They rammed East Bengal to the wall � it was mayhem, almost � and had the shooting not been so tardy, Mohun Bagan would still be calculating their chance factor for tomorrow.


EAST BENGAL: Prasanta Dora, Falguni Dutta, Jackson Egygopong, Anit Ghosh, Ratan Singh, Carlton Chapman, Emmanuel Opoku (Tushar Rakshit, injury time), Ranjan Dey, Dipankar Roy, Seikh Sanjib, Ossius Luis Ferreira (Willie Brown, 57).

CHURCHILL BROTHERS: Edward Ansah, Danzie Ferrao, Anthony Mathews, Osumanu Husseini, Anthony Pereira, Somaitai Shaiza (Marcus Carvalho, 87), Mario Soares, Mykola Shevchenko, Rocky Barreto, Andriy Malchevsky, Francis Silveira.

Referee: Michael Andrews.    

Calcutta, Feb. 21 
�I knew we could do it, I was waiting for my boys to get that bit of confidence,� said East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick after their 2-1 National Football League victory over Churchill Brothers at the Salt Lake Stadium today.

�I had instructed them to go for it, to run, to disturb and to push into the rival zone. I was aware of Osumanu Husseini�s abilities and my tactic clicked,� he said.

�It is difficult for any team to operate as expected with so many injuries over the days. Still I persisted, and we came through.� He was not willing to commit himself to the future. �I am taking one match at a time now,� he said. �I will deal with each situation as it is presented.�

What happened in the late stages? How could a ten-man team push them to the ropes? �It is a psychological factor for any team, for any player,� said Bhowmick. �Ahead in a crunch match and time running out, you do tend to go into your shell, to try and protect.�

Despite his guarded comments, Bhowmick is optimistic now. He is looking at the different orientations that his current lot can achieve. �The overall attitude is changing, late but surely,� he said. �That is good for the team.�

Churchill Brothers coach Danny McLennan felt that Anit Ghosh�s charge on Andriy Malchevsky inside the box �looked foul to me, and that a penalty could have been.�

He, however, said that he did not support the way Andriy �reacted�. �That is not on, and I will have a word with him,� he said.

McLennan said he did not feel it was an upset of any manner. �East Bengal are a top team, a good team, and this can always happen,� he said. �Moreover, they are a team trying desperately to turn around, to be in the National League fray. They were giving a lot more.�    

Calcutta, Feb. 21: 
There is less tension around now, with East Bengal�s victory over Churchill Brothers. However, Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya is not taking anything lightly. Dempo, he says, will have to yield three points tomorrow.

�I need four points from the next two matches,� he said. That obviously translates to at least a draw versus Mahindra and Mahindra in Mumbai Friday. �Just because Dempo are in relegation zone (nine points from 14 matches) it does not mean we take them lightly,� said Bhattacharya. �The fact that they beat East Bengal 2-0 recently makes them that much more worthy of respect now.�

Bhattacharya is right. This league has been pretty unpredictable and still remains open.

Bagan�s Brazilian recruit, Jose Barreto Ramirez, is unliklely to be fielded tomorrow. �His injury has not quite healed and it would be risky for him to force things,� Bhattacharya said. Thankfully Igor Skhvirin is fit and will be around tomorrow, and there are no other injuries.

The morale is high, but the coach says he has instructed his players that there will be no cooling of heels in any match henceforth. Bhattacharya does not want to take any chances with pride.

Goalkeeper Sandip Nandy was again criticised for �mistakes� in the Churchill match. That was probably a trifle harsh, but maybe the tension for the coach is more perceptible than for the players. Wanting to lead at 32 points (by a point) from 16 matches is the current engagement.

Dempo coach Ahmed Sanjari is taking it by the ear. �I know there is this relegation sword on my head, but I take courage from our win over East Bengal, and say that if I would do it with them, I can do it with Mohun Bagan.�

He plans to go all out tomorrow. He can only gain from such adventure. �I can pick up a few points and get out of this silly situation,� he said. �We will fight.�

Considering the position Mohun Bagan are in at the moment, that will be tough.    

Calcutta, Feb. 21: 
DKS � comprising Kamal Mukherjee, Ajoy Brahmachari, Kamal Roy, Tapas Mukherjee, and Bivas Todi � won the inaugural Sunil Bhattacharjee Memorial bridge tournament organised by Tollygunge Bridge Club at the Vivekananda Brati Sangha over the weekend. In the two-day all-play-all ten-team meet, the winners scored 174 VPs from their nine matches out of a maximum possible 225. Bhowanipore Card Club � comprising Sukha Ranjan Ghosh, Asim Mukherjee, Subroto Saha, Siddharta Roychoudhury, Chayan Guha and Kalyan Nandy � led for the better part of the event, only to falter at the end. Two losses pushed them down to second spot.    

Calcutta, Feb. 21: 
The Khadim�s Ashok Malhotra Cricket Academy will be inaugurated at Rabindra Sarobar on March 10.

The academy will cater to youngsters in the age-group of six to 16 and will function for three days a week.

At a Press conference today, Malhotra said he plans to have 100 to 150 trainees. Besides the national selector, state cricketers like Srikant Kalyani, Arindam Sarkar and Madan Ghosh will train the boys. Laxmi Ratan Shukla,who is under contract with Khadim�s,will also be at hand. Trainees will soon have access to a multigym and a dietician at the centre.

The academy will have seven wickets to begin with and there is provision for four more in future.

Malhotra, who has the experience of coaching school kids during his 17 years of league cricket in Scotland, felt that, �every player probably has a little bit of the coach in him�.

Yesterday, Arun Lal had inaugurated his second academy at Subhas Sarovar. Malhotra feels that the setting up of these academies will help Bengal cricket a lot. �Not many people can offer what Arun and I can. We�ve experienced the pressures of playing the game at the top level.�    

Calcutta, Feb. 21: 
By rotation it is Royal Calcutta Turf Club�s (RCTC) turn to host the Wills Indian Turf Invitation Cup week-end. And the once in five-year mega event package is just round the corner. While the Wills Sprinters Trophy and the Stayers Trophy are billed for February 26, the all-important, Invitation Cup, and the other important events will be held the following day. But is it going to be the contest of skill in each of the various categories of trips ranging between 1,200m and 3,000m?

An in-depth study from the routine nominations of horses to the �Entries/Handicap� stage only confirms that the major events may turn out to be a little short of farce, thanks to the big brothers of the turf � the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) and the Bangalore Turf Club (BTC).

One ponders if the two major turf players in the country which have played second fiddle for decades to the East are trying to even it out with RCTC. Only two horseowners � the racing baron MAM Ramaswamy and to a little extent the liquor giant Vijay Mallya � are enthusiastic about the prized events spread over the weekend.

The Mumbai �Invitational� contingent may start with Saddle Up and perhaps end with the last year�s Indian Derby winner only. The Western India challenger may be left to face the local contingent spearheaded by Allied Forces. But do not expect a field of larger than seven runners.

Smart Chieftan, too, has been nominated by RWITC for the star weekend attraction, the Turf Invitation Cup. But serious efforts were made by the Western India bigwig to keep the Indian Derby winner away from Calcutta.

The BTC has a token stake in the Wills Sprinters Trophy. Machine Gun Kelly takes on the Hyderabad nominee So Royal, the Chennai entry Polar Falcon and of course, the local hopefuls. RWITC hardly seem to be interested in the race, though Specialist and Khaalis have been nominated for the race. It may come as a surprise if the field sees beyond seven starters.

To say that Saddle Up and Smart Chieftan may have scared away the opposition, in the Wills Stayers Trophy and the Turf Invitation Cup, is no excuse. The competitive attitude among the opposition seems to be lacking. They need to be educated about participation in the equine �Nationals.� It is as bigger a honour as winning the event. The Vijay Mallya-property could be the lone outstation entry over the gruelling 3,000m trip.

One wonders if there is dearth of quality horses in the country or the outstation horseowners lack ambition to win �gold� at the equine �Nationals.� The third possibility, obviously, could be kill the dying dove, the RCTC. With millions of rupees at stake it is not only a poor deal for the sponsors, ITC Ltd, but also for RCTC. The club has been trying to put the sport back on the track and a little support from the fellow turf clubs by a sending larger contingent would have helped the RCTC�s cause substantially.

Of course, the outstation turf centres have a ready-made excuse � the strike threat by one of the four RCTC trade unions on the �Invitational� weekend. The officials quarters are, however, confident that good sense will prevail.    


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