| Mohun Baganís Sunil Chhetri runs past Srikanta Dutta (on the ground) of Tollygunge Agragami to score his teamís fourth goal at the Salt Lake Stadium Wednesday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta: Tollygunge Agragami became the latest victim of Mohun Baganís winning streak in Wednesdayís Super Division League tie at Salt Lake Stadium. The 4-2 scoreline ensured there will be a championship play-off final for the first time after 1998.
East Bengal are on top of the table, having finished their campaign with 30 points from 13 games. Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting are on 25 and 27, respectively, and both have played 12 matches. Saturdayís clash between these two will determine who plays East Bengal for the title.
Mohun Bagan have to win, while a draw will be enough for Mohammedan Sporting.
It was a must-win game for Mohun Bagan, and their task was made simpler by the absence of a clutch of regulars in the rival ranks. Not that Tollygunge lacked the heart to fight, but the cutting edge of the Mohun Bagan midfield proved decisive.
Jose Ramirez Barreto added thrust to midfield activities by falling back and starting the moves. The presence of two more forwards apart from the Brazilian meant Mohun Bagan didnít lose numerical advantage in the striking zone even when Barreto was falling back.
The opening goal, however, came from Dulal Biswas, the right-stopper in a 4-3-3 formation. It came in the 20th minute while Barreto struck in the 27th and 44th to help his team take the break at 3-0. Uttam Debnath made it 3-1 shortly after resumption before Sunil Chhetri restored the three-goal lead. Laltu Das got a consolation goal just before the end.
There were moments of tension at the Mohun Bagan goalmouth after Uttamís goal. It would easily have been 3-2 had Laltu and Niladri Chakraborty not muffed up an easy chance. That, however, didnít quite change the course of the match as Mohun Bagan kept dominating and once Chhetri got the fourth goal in the 71st minute, the match was all but wrapped up.
Mohun Bagan wasted no time in taking control of the midfield. The trio of Basudeb Mondal, Gourab Dutta and Jayanta Sen was active and played some neat and meaningful passes which kept the Tollygunge defence under pressure.
However, the opening was not coming, but well before that could spread tension among the Bagan ranks, Dulal opened scoring with a rasping right-footer taken from about 22 yards out. Seven minutes later, Gourabís cross from the right slipped out of the Tollygunge goalkeeperís grip and Barreto knocked in the rebound.
It was one-way traffic in the first half after this and after heading a Barreto centre into the horizontal, Chhetri let the Brazilian free just outside the box with a clever, little flick. Barretoís perfect first touch shrugged off two defenders and the Brazilian moved towards the centre, entered the box, picked his spot, before finishing with a neat right-footer.
The 3-0 cushion must have made Mohun Bagan feel relaxed and seven minutes after the break, they paid the penalty as Uttam stole in past the deep defenders to tap in Niladriís pass. Though they came close to conceding another soon after, the goal jerked Mohun Bagan out of sluggishness and they started pressing once again.
Resisting a second onslaught was simply beyond Tollygunge, who had beaten the same opposition 2-1 in the first leg.
Mohun Bagan: Bivash Ghosh; Lolendra Singh, Dulal Biswas, Yakubu, Partha Sarathi Dey (Rajib Ghosh, 55); Basudeb Mondal, Jayanta Sen, Gourab Dutta; Sheikh Sanjib (Uday Konar, 43, Amar Ganguly, 59), Jose Ramirez Barreto, Sunil Chhetri.
Tollygunge Agragami: Amar Deb; Amitava Chanda, Debkumar Sashmal, Sujit Neogi, Dipanjan Majumdar; Uttam Debnath (Sumit Bhakta, 73); Sandip Das, Sujay Dutta, Srikanta Dutta; Soumen Karmakar (Laltu Das, 46), Niladri Chakraborty.