| Bhaichung: Recovering well
Margao: Defending champion Mohun Bagan survived some anxious moments before holding Vasco Sports Club to a 1-1 draw in their opening match of the seventh National Football League at the Nehru Stadium Tuesday.
Bagan drew first blood off a counter attack in the seventh minute when medio Rennedy Singh sent a cross into the box from the left and Vasco keeper Rogerio Ramos failed to clear. Striker Sheikh Sanjib took the lose ball in his possession and slotted it in.
From thereon, Vasco took charge creating at least six scoring opportunities. Finally, Rui Wanderleis Weis drew parity in the 67th minute converting a spot-kick.
The penalty was awarded by referee S. Suresh after a Riston Rodrigues volley hit defender Isa Musah Eroje’s left hand inside the box.
Vasco played a free flowing game with Wanderlei and Marcos Pereira combining well upfront. They were well fed by medio Abhay Kumar who constantly sent overhead passes to keep the Bagan defenders busy.
However, luck deserted the Goa club as Marcus, who had four scoring chances, saw two of his shots hitting the woodwork. On the other end, Bagan, who started with Sanjib and Sunil Chettri upfront, were far from their best with their star striking duo of Barreto and Bhaichung on the bench with leg injuries.
Bhaichung, however, was brought in late in the second half but was given no room to operate by the rival defenders.
Vasco made the first move in the sixth minute when a combined move by Menino Fernandes and Marcus found Wanderlei inside the box but the Brazilian’s header was well stopped by goalkeeper Rajat Ghosh Dastidar.
They came close to scoring midway in the first half but Riston Rodrigues’ feeble shot off Marcus pass was collected by Rajat. Marcus again came close late in the half but he blasted over.
Vasco coach disappointed
Vasco coach Derrick Pereira was disappointed with his team for not collecting full points despite dominating the game and blamed luck for denying them twice as woodwork came to Bagan's rescue. “Our defence played well except for the lapse in concentration which saw a mix-up between our defenders that resulted in the goal,” he said. “With two games played and only one point in the kitty, we will try our best to win the away match against HAL in Bangalore,” he said.
Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya was happy with the draw. “Vasco are a good side and with both our key strikers not available due to injury I expected the away match would be a tough one. Our boys played well, especially the defence, and I am happy with this draw,” he said.
With Bhutia nearly recovered from his left leg calf muscle injury he will be fielding him in the first XI against Churhcill, added Bhattacharya.
Indian Bank shock ITI
Indian Bank celebrated their return to the elite group in style, shocking Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) 2-1 in their NFL opener in Bangalore.
After being down 0-1 at half-time, the Chennai outfit’s Sri Lankan recruit Imran Mohammed hit two goals to enable the victory.
Mohammed found the target in the 60th minute of a pass from Kasun Nadika Jayasuria, another recruit from the island nation. In the 81st minute, he scored with a superb header off a Hamilton Bobby pass to seal the match.
Earlier, ITI forged ahead in the eighth minute as Najeeb’s header found the target off an Akshay Das pass. The local side, who finished in the seventh last year, dominated the first half.
But things changed dramatically thereafter as the bankmen, promoted from the second division after three seasons, raised their game.
ITI wasted a chance in the 74th minute, Felix saving it.