| Bhaichung: First blood
Calcutta: National League champions Mohun Bagan made history by becoming the first Indian team to win in the Maldives when they thrashed Valencia 3-0 (5-2 aggregate) on Tuesday to move into the third round of the AFC Champions League.
Bhaichung Bhutia, George Ekeh and Jose Ramirez Barreto scored to ensure Bagan a place against South Korean club Taejon Citizen.
Though the home-leg was originally scheduled for November 13, the Bagan authorities will ask the AFC to postpone it to November 16.
Talking to The Telegraph, Bhaichung said, “It was an absolute team effort and all the units functioned superbly.” He also had special mention for the generally ‘suspect’ defence. “They kept out the Valencia attackers really well,” he said.
Mohun Bagan started off in a whirlwind fashion, going into the lead in the fifth minute. Bhaichung, in the opposition box, chest-trapped a ball from the midfield and his powerful volley slammed into the net.
In the 25th minute, Rennedy Singh passed to Bhaichung, who set up George Ekeh to slot the ball in. “Ekeh, fielded in spite of the injury, played quite well. In the second half, Soso (Somatai Shaiza) replaced him, and he too did well,” Bhaichung said.
In the 50th minute, Basudeb Mondal, took the match beyond the Maldivians when he sent a through ball for Barreto, which the Brazilian mopped up with ease.
Asked about Bagan’s remarkable turn-around, Bhaichung said, “In Calcutta, we were too tired and not in a position to play. But today, all the boys got enough rest and that made the difference.”
However, the mercurial striker made it clear that the performance has to go up in every department if they have to make any impression in the next round.
Bhaichung has been ruled out of the Santosh Trophy after sustaining another injury in his calf muscle. “I was playing with an injury and pulled up once again today. So, I’ll have to take at least 10-15 days rest,” he said.
Bhaichung said that Rennedy would go to Manipur to represent the state in the Santosh Trophy. However, Bagan officials, who said Rennedy had not recovered fully, ruled this out.