| East Bengal striker Mike Okoro (jersey No. 10) tries to make his presence felt at the Tollygunge Agragami goalmouth at Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta: East Bengal started their National League campaign with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Tollygunge Agragami at the Salt Lake stadium on Sunday. S. Venkatesh and Mike Okoro scored the goals in either half.
But it was far from an impressive beginning for the Calcutta Football League champions. Though their sheer weight was too much for Tollygunge to bear some serious question marks can be raised straight away about the red-and-gold brigade.
East Bengal’s right flank looked absolutely non-existent. For instance, Surya Bikash Chakraborty, playing as right-half, was a mere spectator in the first half and the coach promptly replaced him in the second. Then again, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, who replaced him, was also not overly impressive, but at least he made some effort.
Subhas Bhowmick’s boys, playing in the 3-5-2 formation, lo-oked good in the midfield. Douglas De Silva, East Bengal’s Brazilian defender, often lent a helping hand to the attackers allowing them territorial supremacy.
But his defensive qualities looked rather suspect. De Silva is not very fast in falling back, and to add to that Suley Musah, their third defender, looked extremely slow. Though Deepak Mondal was good enough to plug the holes in defence this time around, it’s a different matter what will happen against stronger sides.
However, East Bengal’s left side looked really lethal with Shashthi Duley, Dipankar Roy and De Silva combining superbly. The trio was well supported by Venkatesh, who shuffled around continuously making life tough for the Tollygunge boys.
The Tamil Nadu striker, who joined East Bengal this season, is free from the habit of playing too many square passes, and that allows the game to move forward. But Dipankar was the real star as he beautifully manoeuvred the ball for the attackers.
However, Mike Okoro, who had looked brilliant in the one-on-one situations during the CFL, wasn’t that impressive in similar situations on the day. But these are only early days in the NFL and things can definitely change for the better in the future.
On the other hand, Tollygunge Agragami adopted ultra-defensive tactics trying to crowd out the East Bengal attackers in front of the penetrative zone. They tried to catch the opposition napping on the counter-attack, and were even successful on a couple of occasions.
East Bengal could have got into the lead in the 14th minute when Duley’s centre was beautifully headed by Venkatesh, but it struck the cross-piece and came back into play.
After surviving another close shave when Okoro’s header was kept out by Debkumar Sashmol from the goalline, Tollygunge conceded the lead in the 44th.
A wonderful three-pass move between De Silva, Malswamtluanga and Venkatesh culminated with the Tamil striker tapping the ball beautifully on the run.
East Bengal doubled the lead in the 58th minute when Duley’s free-kick from the left was headed in by Okoro, with the Tollygunge goalkeeper Amar Deb reacting late.
East Bengal: Sandip Nandy; Surya Bikash Chakraborty (Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, 46), Suley Musah, Dipak Mondal, Douglas De Silva; Shasthi Duley, S. Malswamtluanga (Alvito De Cunha, 63), Anit Ghosh, Dipankar Roy (Amjad Ali Khan, 74); S. Venkatesh, Mike Okoro
Tollygunge Agragami: Gopal Das; (Amar Deb, 23); Amitava Chanda, Isiaka Awoyemi, Deb Kumar Sashmol, Dipayan Majumdar; Mehtab Hossain (Niladri Chakraborty, 78), Sandip Das, Sujoy Dutta, Srikanta Dutta, Ashim Biswas, Akeem Abolanle
Referee: M.K. Roy
Mahindra win 1-0
In Mumbai, Mahindra United defeated Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) 1-0 in their NFL match at the Cooperage on Sunday, adds PTI. R.C. Prakash scored the winner in the 22nd minute. HAL came close to equalising in the second half but Kennath Onu’s header from close went over the cross-piece.