| Lee Chang-yup scores the first goal for Taejon Citizen past Mohun Baganís Amit Singha Roy and Sumit Sengupta at Salt Lake Stadium Tuesday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Points for pride were there to be won, and Mohun Bagan didnít disappoint. While going down 1-2 (1-8 in aggregate) to Taejon Citizen of South Korea at the Salt Lake Stadium Tuesday, they put up a superb fight against a team much stronger to them in every department of the game.
True, Taejon resorted to percentage football, and they also didnít have couple of their top stars in their ranks, but that doesnít undermine the credit of a depleted Mohun Bagan team.
They too had to leave out No. 1 Indian goalkeeper Rajat Ghosh Dastidar, left-back Lolendra Singh and left-half Rennedy Singh. If that was not enough, star striker Bhaichung Bhutia, who had already given a few anxious moments to the Taejon defence with some dazzling runs, had to limp out early in the second half after twisting his ankle.
However, an outstanding fight by the Bagan boys in the last 15 minutes of the match will undoubtedly leave a deep impact on all present at the ground. And the star of the show was once again the Brazilian, who has been carrying the burden of the team on his broad shoulders for the past few years, Jose Ramirez Barreto.
Playing as a midfielder, he chased every ball, dribbled through and set up superb moves for his attackers. The way his shirt was torn apart by a Taejon defender in an effort to stop him, is ample testimony to the torrid time the Brazilian gave to the Koreans.
The goal he scored in the 88th minute, was an absolute gem. Getting a lose ball outside the rival box, he made a superb placing to the far corner of the net, beating Taejonís World Cup goalkeeper Choi Eun-sung hands down.
In the very next minute Bagan could have made it 2-2, but Basudeb Mondalís intelligent free-kick from just outside the box, missed the target by a whisker with the goalkeeper out of position.
The local side had two clear chances in injury time, but Dulal Biswas and Sunil Chettri missed them from very close range with the rival keeper at their mercy.
The match, however, didnít start on a bright note for Mohun Bagan. Taejon started taking control of the midfield, thus ensuring overall supremacy over the match. The Koreans were far from going flat out, but they are so far superior to the Indians in the basics of the game, that the Bagan boys started to lose ground straightaway.
The green-and-maroon brigade, playing in a 4-5-1 formation, with Sumit Sengupta as the defensive screen, tried to stop the Koreans in front of the penetrative zone. But the Taejon boys, quite intelligently, stretched the game to the wings and floated in centres. The first goal came in from one such move when Lee Chang-yup was allowed a free header by the defenders from Chang Chul-wooís centre.
Bagan, on the other hand, played counter-attack based football, but they didnít have the amount of fitness needed to catch a team like Taejon napping on the break. Still, in the 35th minute, Bhaichung beautifully dribbled past a couple of defenders, but there was no one who could meet his inviting centre.
The Taejon boys, unable to break the Bagan defensive barricade, started taking long-rangers. Twice, they came desperately close but the cross-bar came in the way.
They, however, doubled the lead when Bagan stopper Isa Musah failed to clear a centre from the left and Gong Oh-kyun, lurking nearby, banged it into the open net.
As the match wore on, the heat started taking toll on the Koreans. They seemed to lose breadth and Mohun Bagan took that opportunity to the full. Barreto in association with George Ekeh, tore open the rival defence, and if this is anything to go by, good times are ahead in the National Football League.
Taejon Citizen: Choi Eun-sung; Kim Sung-keun, Lee Chang-yup, Chang Chul-woo, Kim Jung-soo; Kim Dae-soo, Kim Kook-jin, Kim Chan-joon, Gong Oh-kyun; Lee Young joo, Kim Kwang-sun (Lee Kwang-jin, 30)
Mohun Bagan: Amit Singha Roy; Dulal Biswas, Satish Bharti, Isah Musa Eroje, Palash Karmakar (Kajol Bhattacharya, 81); Sumit Sengupta, Basudeb Mondal, Jayanta Sen (Gourab Dutta, 72), Jose Ramirez Barreto, George Ekeh; Bhaichung Bhutia (Sunil Chettri, 51)
Referee: Ram Krishna Gosh