| Douglas De Silva (right) heads home the first of East Bengal’s three goals against Mohammedan Sporting at Salt Lake Stadium Monday. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta: It was a sweet revenge in every sense of the term. Going by East Bengal’s 3-0 demolition of Mohammedan Sporting in the CFL Super Division play-off final on Monday, the revenge looked sweeter than even the taste of success.
There was an utter audacity in the scoreline, a sense of pride in accomplishing a mission and making the action a no-contest. In the end, the crown, 28 times in all, was worn by the deserving champions.
For East Bengal coach Subhas Bhowmick and his boys, the match had thrown up an opportunity for “redemption from a sin” — of allowing the same rivals to snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat in the return leg on September 12. The verdict, in fact, forced the League into the play-off final.
After Monday, East Bengal should have no spite towards the delay in their celebration of winning the League. As strikes from Douglas de Silva, Shasthi Duley and S. Malswamtluanga ensured it became a perfect finish to a task, which so far remained incomplete, but never unattainable.
It was an explosive start East Bengal could have ever dreamed of. In the very first minute of the match, an exchange of passes between S. Malswamtluanga and Mike Okoro broke open the Mohammedan Sporting defence before it could settle down properly till the Nigerian’s shot was cleared for a corner.
Malswamtluanga took the corner, but the ball was returned to him off the rival defence. The diminutive midfielder sent in a cross back towards the goal second time. The cross was hardly inviting but the Mohammedan Sporting central defence allowed the ball to drop near the dreaded six-yard zone and a lurking Douglas pounded on the bounce to head home.
Within three minutes, East Bengal came close to increase the lead. Malswamtluanga again broke free down the right flank and squared a perfect pass for the advancing Okoro. Okoro’s nice toe-poking missed the near post by inches.
Then on the stroke of halftime, Shasthi Duley made it 2-0. Medio S. Venkatesh set up a defence-splitting through and both Maswamtluanga and Shasthi went after the ball. Malswamtluanga was faster to reach the ball. As he tried to dribble past Mohammedan Sporting’s man under the bar, Prasanta Dora, the ball fell in the path of Shasthi who slotted it into an open net.
The break, however, turned out to be a dramatic one as the black-and-white supporters started greeting their team, reeling under two-goal deficit, with Bronx cheer and even a few stones were hurled at the players’ bench. The incidents somehow went overboard forcing the police to evacuate the Mohammedan Sporting stands completely.
Mohammedan Sporting officials led the players off the field in protest against the police action and finally, after 25 minutes, they returned demoralised.
It seemed to have left a telling effect on them as they started the second session with no purpose and going through the motion. East Bengal made no mistake in going for the jugular and finally the issue was settled in the 65th minute.
Douglas, who had often enjoyed free-run from defence to the attacking line, delivered a grass-cutter from left and Malswamtluanga, who earlier played key roles in the first two goals, made his presence felt in the scoreline finally. He deftly deflected the ball into the goal, breaking free from the challenge of his marker Hussain Mustafi.
There were very few to write home about Mohammedan Sporting efforts to touch on the historic feat of winning the League since 1981. Mohammedan Sporting tested the rival rearguard for the first time in the 17th minute when Khemtang Paite’s 25-yard piledriver forced a smothering save from East Bengal goalkeeper Sandip Nandy. Then midway into second half, woodwork came in the way of substitute Nazimul Haque’s attempt towards goal.
East Bengal: Sandip Nandy; Surya Bikash Chakraborty, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Dipak Mondal, Douglas de Silva, M. Suresh (Amjad Ali Khan, 35m); S. Malswamtluanga, Anit Ghosh, Shasthi Duley (Subhas Chakraborty, 75), S. Venkatesh, Mike Okoro (Alvito D’Cunha, 83).
Mohammedan Sporting: Prasanta Dora; Biswanath Mondal, Insan Ali, Hussain Mustafi, Amandeep Singh; Arunava Sarkar (Bhuvan Joshi, 41m), Amit Das (Arjan Ali, 61), Habib Adekunle, Khemtang Paite; Rahim Nabi, Dipendu Biswas (Nazimul Haque, 53).
Referee: Udayan Haldar.