The French should look to score early
Mohun Bagan start with easy victory
Port Trust theft
Lal: A lot of us will be thankful to Gibbs
Rajasthan in 0-0 draw
Calcutta racing/ Bharath, Rabani on winning spree

Calcutta, July 1 
The Euro 2000 semis weren�t much of a spectacle, though the matches had their fair share of drama and intrigue. Portugal, somewhat surprisingly, put up a methodical and intelligent fight against the increasingly impressive Frenchmen before succumbing to pressure while Italy showed yet again there is some similarity between football and chess when it comes to tactical manoeuvring.

The final doesn�t promise to be as entertaining as a Holland-France clash could have been, but there is every reason to believe it would be yet another grim battle between teams of contrasting capacity. France, predictably, start favourites for the kind of co-ordination they have exhibited, but Italy will be no pushovers. The world champions must strike early to cap their �98 triumph with the European title.

France, as was expected, concentrated on clipping off the flamboyant element in Portugal�s game. The gifted Luis Figo was allowed little freedom down the left and was marked by two, sometimes three players. There was hardly any open space in midfield for Rui Costa and Co. to exploit.

Portugal showed they were prepared for this and dished out a brand of football they are not famous for. Their back-four were always in position and barring Abel Xavier down the right, there was little movement upwards by the instinctively adventurous Portuguese defenders. It was the most sensible tactic and they showed they had the defensive organisation to match the might of Zinedine Zidane. France did dominate proceedings, but what they actually managed was nothing more than a few semi-openings.

Portugal attacked when the situation permitted and their originality in this department once again became evident. Very few teams in contemporary world soccer prefer keeping the ball on the ground while advancing and even fewer approach the ball with such confidence and authority. Their elimination was sad but there was nothing unfair about the penalty that sealed their fate. One hopes these wonderful ball players will be around when Asia hosts its maiden World Cup in 2002.

The second semi-final went along predictable lines and it was eventually the triumph of discretion over valour. Italy�s victory was a treat to watch for the kind of gumption they showed. There has to be something special in the team which can frustrate a technically superior side like Holland despite being a man short for about 85 minutes. Italy have mastered the art of defensive organisation and their preventive mechanism is among the best in the world.

France know the Italian methods well. They faced the same mechanism in the last World Cup and had to come through the tie-breaker after 120 minutes of unproductive action. They certainly won�t prefer that this time and will try to score as soon as possible. If the recent performance of these two teams is an indicator, a barren first half in the final will lead to a repeat show of the Holland-Italy semi-final.

There is also the Zidane factor. The balding schemer is extremely versatile and a big-match performer too. Marking him is difficult because he can operate from the deep and can dribble while running. His sense of distribution is sound and the use of the outside of right foot while essaying short passes is clever and artistic.

As for the �battle within the battle�, there will be an interesting tussle between Paolo Maldini and Henry. The veteran Italian will have to be at his best to confront the pace of this right-winger who has made great progress since the World Cup.

Dino Zoff will probably again have the combative Luigi di Biagio in the starting line-up as he can spoil forays in midfield. The coach should, however, use Alessandro del Piero more judiciously. The only creative mind in this Italian side should come in later, if the scores are tied. France appear favourites for the variety in their attack and midfield. They are powerful in defence as well. The team that scores first will surely call the shots thereafter. France are more likely to do that.    

Calcutta, July 1 

Mohun Bagan launched their campaign in local football with a 4-1 win over Calcutta Port Trust in a McDowell Cup clash here. The scoreline may have lent its halo to the victory, but the National League champions will have gone back from the Salt Lake Stadium today with a few doubts as well.

While all the goals they scored came through terrible defending by the portmen, Mohun Bagan�s own defence looked in disarray on several occasions. If the scoreline looked impressive, it was also because their opponents missed a couple of sitters.

Port suffered a serious setback within the first minute, when Jose Santos drew first blood.

Mohun Bagan had surged up the right from the kick-off and, after R.C. Prakash�s shot had been blocked, a defender pushed the ball straight to Santos. The Brazilian, lurking some 12 yards in front of the goal, wriggled past a defender and let go a right-footed grounder that angled into the goal even as the Port �keeper dived right.

Six minutes later, Debjit Ghosh found Lolendra Singh on the left with a chip and the Port defence got their offside trap all wrong. With the defenders moving up, Lolendra found both space and time to move up in the penalty box and send in a cross for Prakash.

The ball didn�t get that far as Port stopper Samarjit Bose, in a desperate bid to save the day, put it into his own goal.

The third goal came in the 28th minute off a penalty kick. Santos was brought down by Pinaki Dutta � an offence that fetched the Port defender an yellow card � and James Singh made no mistake from the spot.

Prakash, who had been a prolific scorer for ITI of Bangalore last year, got onto the scoresheet with a solo effort a couple of minutes from the breather. Picking up a ball on the left, Prakash slipped past a defender before shooting goalwards. Goalkeeper Santanu Basel managed to block the shot, but Prakash was on the rebound quickly. His left-footer struck a desperately diving defender, but the ball ballooned over and into the untenanted goal.

Port, relegated to first division (group A) after last season, finally showed some resilience in the second half. They were rewarded with a goal in the 72nd minute, Sujit Dey slipping in, in front of Bagan goalie Bibhas Ghosh, to nod in a corner by Sandip Ghosh.

It was a fine goal, but Dey had to back to the dressing room the guilt of missing two of the day�s best scoring opportunities. On both occasions, all he had to do was tap in close measured crosses.

Barreto, Mohun Bagan�s inspirational striker, was missing today. He is stuck in Kathmandu trying to solve his visa problems.

East Bengal meet FCI tomorrow, and they too will be without star player Andreyi Mischelvsky. While Mischelvsky is running temperature, Tushar Rakshit is on the list of doubtfuls.


MOHUN BAGAN: Bivash Ghosh; Kajol Bhattacharya (Amitava Chanda, 78th); Sumit Sengupta, Debjit Ghosh, M. Suresh; Dulal Biswas, Lolendra Singh; James Singh (Gautam Ghosh, 61st), Naushad Pari (Jayanta Sen, 27th); R. C. Prakash, Santos.

CALCUTTA PORT TRUST: Santanu Basel; Rabindra Nath Karmakar, Samarjit Bose, Simanta Das, Pinaki Dutta (Arya Basu Roy, 46th); Jayanta Chakraborty, Koushik Prasad, Sanjit Saha, Arindam Dey (Amit Roy, 38th); Sujit Dey, Souren Sardar (Sandip Ghosh, 46th).

Referee: Subrata Sarkar    

Calcutta, July 1 
When the dejected Calcutta Port Trust players returned to their dressing room at the Salt Lake Stadium today, they discovered they hadn�t just lost their McDowell Cup match. They had lost their valuables as well.

�Our dressing room was broken into while we were on the ground and our money, watches and other valuables stolen,� coach Biswajit Bhattacharya informed. �We informed the stadium authorities about it, but they were of little help.�

While the main door remained locked, the thieves came in through a back entrance.

Col Soumitra Roy, stadium CEO, said that he will probe the incident. �I have, however, told the IFA on several occasions that it should have police posting there. I have just two security guards per shift at my disposal.�    

Calcutta, July 1 
The disillusionment of Arun Lal, founder-secretary of the now defunct Players� Association is complete.

Three years ago, when Manoj Prabhakar first made the Rs 25-lakh-allegation, Lal was among the first to vehemently rubbish talk of there being �no smoke without fire.�

Today, Lal confesses to having been naive.

�I looked at match-fixing from a cricketers� perspective... Never imagined a player would compromise... Though the unethical dealings only reflect the degeneration of society, I still can�t understand this unbridled greed,� he told The Telegraph.

It�s been a U-turn in Lal�s stand but, typically, he has been man enough to accept his initial assessment was all wrong.

�I suppose there had to be a correction, one which was long overdue... So, the present crisis does have a positive side to it. I�ve always been an optimist and while suspicions may remain, eventually, the game will emerge stronger.�

Speaking aboard the Shatabdi Friday evening (on the way back from Jamshedpur), Lal added: �However, the one fall-out we could have done without is that the honest players will suffer. Already, jobs have begun to dry up and, just as significantly, nobody is now terribly keen to have products endorsed by a cricketer.�

With the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) making no headway � two cabinet ministers have, in the past few days, themselves acknowledged as much � the cry for granting amnesty (as an �incentive� to come clean) could gain ground.

Lal�s own thoughts are somewhat mixed.

�I�m certainly not one for blanket amnesty... At best, it could be selectively offered � perhaps to a bookie or a player, whose revelations could bring down the entire edifice which, in the first place, should never have come about.�

Would a judicial probe �- on the lines of the King Commission �- been a better option?

�I�m not sure... To put it crudely, in India, there�s nothing quite like the fear of the danda... That usually comes about when a police inquiry is underway. I don�t think a judicial probe would (instill the same fear)...�

Lal continued: �Actually, the cricketers have already been tried in the minds of the fans. Well, tried and convicted. Therefore, nobody will tolerate even an attempt to cover-up.�

But, while the CBI inquiry continues, should those under a cloud themselves opt out of the national side?

�It has to be a personal decision. I don�t see how the Board can drop somebody only because allegations have been flung. Be it Kapil Dev or somebody else, the decision has to be that of the individual alone.�

Lal felt the turning point in the present crisis would remain Herschelle Gibbs� testimony. �Hansie Cronje changed his story only after Gibbs� revelations... In time to come, a lot of us will be thankful to Gibbs...�

Like many, Lal hasn�t been too impressed by the formal listing of Unacceptable Behaviour (and penalties for breaches) by the ICC.

�Look, match-fixing didn�t happen only because drastic penalties weren�t spelt out. Equally, match-fixing won�t stop only because the penalties are now there in black and white.�

Despite the recent scandals Lal, who runs a vibrant (Bournvita-funded) academy, doesn�t intend specifically talking to his wards about the don�ts.

�I may add moral science-lessons,� he remarked grinning, and added: �Independence Day is a big day for us. Now, even Republic Day will be treated similarly. Bottomline is instilling national pride.�

In time, Lal believes the cricketers� image will regain lustre. He also believes a Players� Association could, in the present circumstances, have done wonders for the cricketers.

Yet, if somebody is to revive it, the initiative won�t come from Lal.

�I�ll help, from somewhere in the background, that�s it... For a players� body to flourish, you need selfless people... Those who will look beyond their nose... I�m afraid cricketers in India just aren�t united �- they pull and tug in different directions. I saw that in 1989 (when the Players� Association was formed, with Kapil as president); I don�t think that would have changed...�

Like it or not, he is right.    

Calcutta, July 1 
Rajasthan played out a goalless draw with West Bengal Police in the CFL first division group A today.

Barisha SC overcame Muslim Institute 4-2 in group B. Sanjay Haldar got a brace, Jaidip Chowdhury and Biswajit Sarkar one each for Barisha. Anwar Ali Qureshi netted both goals for the losers.

In other group B action, Bally Protiva downed Calcutta Police Club 2-0, while Sporting Union and Police AC drew 0-0.

Patterson Memorial TT

South Point will meet Kotrang Bhupendra Smriti Vidyalaya (KBSV) in the boys� final of the E.M. Patterson Memorial inter-school table tennis championships Monday. In the semi-finals today, South Point blanked Shital Prasad Ghosh HS 3-0 while KBSV edged out Maniktala HS 3-1.

In the girls� team event, Tarasundari Vidya Bhaban, Barrackpur Girls� HS and Methodist High School topped their respective groups to make the super league.

The girls� event saw Tamisra Kundu and Arpita Banerjee making the final. Tamisra beat Papri Poley 8-21, 21-15, 21-13., while Arpita ousted Payel Bose 21-18, 21-11.

AAAWB felicitation

State athletes who won laurels at various national-level meets will be felicitated by the Amateur Athletics Association, West Bengal Friday at the Sports Library Hall of the West Bengal Kabaddi Association.    

Calcutta, July 1 
The city racing has always been bookmakers� paradise. The story was no different today, the opening day of the monsoon season. Four favourites bit the dust in a frame of six and the biggest damage was done by Kansai in the feature, the Bhishma Cup. Known for his exploits over trips beyond sprints, the Bharath Singh-trainee in the hands jockey Rabani pounced on the tiring bunch of speedsters when the heat was on. The trainer-jockey combination had also bagged the Prince Lyon Cup when the 12-10 favourite Alocina made short work of the opposition with a start-to-finish effort. Bharath wrapped up the day with a lucrative treble through the victory of Super Smile, a 2-1 favourite in the Absolution Handicap. Apprentice Islam partnered the winner.


1. Artemis Handicap 1,200m: (6-4-1-5) Crucible (Amil) 1; Ardon (Gowli) 2; Constantine (Amjad K.) 3; Tequila Shot (Shanker) 4. Won by: 2-1/2; 3/4; 3/4; (1-19.6). Tote: Win Rs 53; Place: 15; 11; Quinella; 16; Tanala: 173. Fav: Ardon (4). Winner trained by Vijay S.

2. Moth Handicap 1,000m: (8-6-5-3) Work Order (Haroon) 1; Floral Path (Islam) 2; Master Charlie (Upadhya) 3; Jayaashva (A. P. Singh) 4. Won by: 2-1/2; 6-1/4; 2-3/4; (1-5.1). Tote: Win Rs 34; Place: 13; 14; 61; Quinella: 43; Tanala: 1,358. Fav: Work Order (8). Winner trained by Mujeeb R.

3. Prince Lyon Cup 1,200m: (5-4-3-6) Alocina (Rabani) 1; Double Dancer (M. Reuben) 2; Aristotemus (R. Ahmed) 3; Quizzical (Surender) 4. Won by: 1-3/4; 5-3/4; SH; (1-20). Tote: Win Rs 20; Place: 12; 13; 41; Quinella: 39; Tanala: 528. Fav: Alocina (5). Winner trained by Bharath S.

4. Bhishma Cup 1,100m: (3-1-2-4) Kansai (Rabani) 1; Blitzer (M. Reuben) 2; Jeweller (Surender) 3; Char Bahar (Amjad K.) 4. Won by: 1-1/4; 1-3/4; 1-1/4; (1-11.4). Tote: Win Rs 130; Place: 40; 32; Quinella: 453; Tanala: 1,195. Fav: Jeweller (2). Winner trained by Bharath S.

5. Zifi Handicap 1,100m: (4-3-2-6) On the Bit (Amil) 1; Ashbury (Rabani) 2; Queen�s Logic (Islam) 3; Fencai (M. Reuben) 4. Won by: 2-3/4; 1-1/2; 3-1/2; (1-11.8). Tote: Win Rs 48; Place: 14; 14; 20; Quinella: 48; Tanala; 426. Fav: Scarlet Raider (1). Winner trained by J. Stephens.

6. Absolution Handicap 1,200m: (7-4-2-8) Super Smile (Islam) 1; Mameena (Manohar) 2; Storm Centre (Engineer) 3; Scimitar (Smith) 4. Won by: 3/4; 3/4; Nk; (1-19.3). Tote: Win Rs 30; Place: 14; 13; 38; Quinella: 35; Tanala: 586. Fav: Super Smile (7). Winner trained by Bharath S.

Jackpot: Rs 30,675; (C) Rs 3,210.

Treble: (i) Rs 321; (ii) Rs 2,335.

Today�s track trials (Outer sand track)

1,000m: Sterling Prospect (Amil) and Alygator (A. P. Singh) in 1-18s; (400m) 28s. Both easy. Deep Star (Surender) and Artifact (Rb) in 1-16s; (400m) 29s.

800m: Global Harmony (Manohar) in 59s; (400m) 27s. Tribal Warlord (Brij S.) and Tsaynen Blue (Upadhya) in 1-0s; (400m) 28s. Sky Command (Manohar) in 56 2/5s; (400m) 27s. fit.Classy Twist (Upadhya) in 57s; (400m) 27s. Ballet Master (Gowli) and Arctic Fancy (Ruth-erford) in 56s; (400m) 26 2/5s. Quickdraw McGraw (Rutherford) and Head Hunter (Gowli) in 57s; (400m) 25s. Former better. Too Soon To Tell (Manohar) in 59s; (400m) 26s. Swash Buckler (Brij S.) in 58s; (400m) 27s. Alesund (Raba-ni) in 1-2; (400m) 29s. Iron Warrior (Rb) in 1-1s; (400m) 28s. American (Gowli) 1-0s; (400m) 27s. Aquaria (Amil) and Amarante (A. P. Singh) in 58 2/5s; (400m) 28s. Annella (Rb) in 58s; (400m) 27 2/5s. Athletico (Amil) in 58s; (400m) 27s. Tejeni (Amil) in 1-2s; (400m) 28s. Annalee (A. P. Singh) and Magnifico (Amil) in 59s; (400m) 28s.

600m: Ingleside (Manohar) in 43s; (400m) 27s. Hurricane Star (Mano-har) and Fibonacci (Afzal K.) in 44s; (400m ) 27s. Abstract (Rb) and Cup Of Life (Rb) in 43s; (400m ) 27s. Arizona Star (Yacoob) in 42s; (400m) 26s.

Sand track

1,000m: Dizzy Diver (Rb) in 1-12s; (400m) 24s. 800m: Flaming Ferrari (Rb) in 58 2/5s; (400m) 26s. Abstone Queen (P. Alford) and Rock Falcon (Yadav) in 58s; (400m) 26s. Armila (Yacoob) in 55 2/5s; (400m) 24s. Defiance (Yadav) in 54s; (400m) 24s. Rheinheart (Rb) and Software (Shanker) in 52s; (400m) 23 3/5s. Both are fit. Rule With Honour (Rb) in 56s; (400m) 26s. Eau Savage (Shanker) in 57s; (400m) 25s. Strictly Royal (Som S.) and Golden Heart (Engineer) in 58s; (400m) 26s. Almond Rock (Rutherford) and Giltedge (Yadav) in 55s; (400m) 24s.    


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