| George Ekeh after completing his hattrick Saturday. Bhaichung Bhutia is in the background. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta, Nov. 30: An afternoon of high drama at Salt Lake Stadium saw JCT’s Harvinder Singh stealing Mohun Bagan forward George Ekeh’s thunder in a thrilling National Football League (NFL) clash on Saturday. The Punjab outfit, down by two goals, staged a remarkable second-half fightback to hold the national champions 3-3.
Ekeh scored the maiden hattrick of the seventh edition of the NFL, but Harvinder began and ended a roller-coaster ride for JCT, helping his team gain the first point in three matches. In between their new Ghanaian recruit K. Yeboah hit the target and India goalkeeper Rajat Ghosh Dastidar effected two brilliant saves as Mohun Bagan escaped further blushes .
The prognosis of green-and-maroon brigade losing the advantage of a five-minute lead — when Ekeh bulged in after neatly chesting down a Rennedy Singh centre near the penalty spot — was always there, though. Yeboah missed a sitter with Rajat at his mercy, followed by a I.M. Vijayan slip-up.
It was, however, against the run of play Mohun Bagan extended the lead in the 32nd minute. Kajol Bhattacharya’s defence-splitting through found Jose Ramirez Barreto and the Brazilian’s back-centre found Ekeh in the open. The Liberian’s powerful left-footer gave JCT goalkeeper Arvind Kumar no chance to move.
The game took a sensational turn in the 56th minute, when Vijayan’s back-headed effort fell in Harvinder’s way in the far end and the latter, left unmarked by Satish Bharti, beat Rajat with a powerful shot.
In the meantime, Ekeh,completed the hattrick in the 61st minute. His right-footer went into the net taking a wicked deflection off Musa Aliu.
[Incidentally, Ekeh, who aggravated his should injury, was stretchered off the field after the match and is doubtful for Bagan’s next match against Mahindra United.]
Just when it seemed Ekeh’s three-star show had taken away the game too far from JCT, Yeboah handed the defending champions a rude shock. Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya later said the player was off side, and the strike somehow shook his “fragile” defence.
. Harvinder’s equaliser, two minutes from time, left one wondering how many matches Mohun Bagan would have to throw away from winning positions before things are set in order.
Mohun Bagan: Rajat Ghosh Dastidar; Dulal Biswas, Isa Musa Eroje, Satish Bharti, Palash Karmakar; Basudeb Mondal (Sumit Sengupta, 88m), Kajol Bhattacharya, Rennedy Singh (Ajay Singh, 81), George Ekeh, Jose Ramirez Barreto, Bhaichung Bhutia.
JCT: Arvind Kumar; J. Randhawa, Musa Aliu, Harpreet Singh, Daljit Singh; Jaswinder Singh (Gyan Moyon, 82), Hardeep Saini (Jaspreet Singh, 77), Jo Paul Ancheri, Harvinder Singh; I.M. Vijayan (Kuldeep Singh, 59), K. Yeboah.
Referee: Krishna Avtar (Delhi).
Churchill Brothers, Goa, were held to 1-1 draw against Indin Bank at Chennai Saturday. Sri Lankan recruit Kasun Nadika Jeysuriya put the bankmen in the lead while the Goans drew parity through Noel Wilson.