| Ashim: Brilliant goal
Calcutta: Ashim Biswas’ brilliant goal snapped Mohun Bagan’s two-match winning run and brought Tollygunge Agragami back to winning ways in the OIL PSU National Football League match at Salt Lake Stadium Thursday.
It was not a match the defending champions deserved to lose 0-1, but they conceded the goal in the 84th minute after being reduced to ten men five minutes earlier. Defender Isa Musah Eroje was the man expelled for being booked twice — the second yellow card resulting from an amateurish and needless attempt to handle the ball.
Before and after Ashim’s spectacular strike, Mohun Bagan were pretty much the dominant side but had to leave the field empty-handed because they failed to convert the chances. Jose Ramirez Barreto was the one to spurn most of them, while Rennedy Singh and George Ekeh also failed to come good when the time was ripe.
Fortune just did not smile on Mohun Bagan, a case in point being Lolendra Singh’s 19th-minute snap shot from inside the box — after being set up by Rennedy — hitting the horizontal. Plain luck, however, was not what tilted the balance in favour of Tollygunge, as they stuck manfully to their plan. It was simple and archaic, but effective nonetheless — crowd the defensive and middle-third, and have eight to nine men behind the ball whenever it crossed the centre circle.
To their credit, Tollygunge never allowed a free run to Barreto and Ekeh and their marking was almost watertight with Sujit Neogi and Debkumar Sashmal standing out as central defenders. Sandip Das and Srikanta Dutta, playing the unfamiliar role of midfielder, played perfect spoilers.
Akim Abolanle exposed the weakness of the Mohun Bagan defence by hoodwinking Dulal Biswas on the left flank but sent in a cross that landed hopelessly wide of the goalmouth. Moses Owira tried an ambitious right-footer which was powerful but didn’t seem to threaten the goal. Ashim, lurking just outside the six-yard box, reacted faster than anybody had expected and flung himself in the air to head home. The height at which he met the ball was favourable, but the quick reflexes and presence of mind shown by the India under-20 striker was exceptional.
The result kept Mohun Bagan on 12 points after eight games and lifted Tollygunge to seven from six.
Tollygunge Agragami: Arindam Ghosh; Kabijit Khotel (Sujoy Dutta, 62), Sujit Neogi, Debkumar Sashmal, Amitava Chanda; Srikanta Dutta, Isiaka Awoyemi (Dipayan Majumdar, 79), Sandip Das, Ashim Biswas; Moses Owira, Akim Abolanle.
Mohun Bagan: Bivash Ghosh, Dulal Biswas, Kajal Bhattacharya, Isa Musah Eroje, Lolendra Singh, Basudeb Mondal, Jayanta Sen (Gaurab Dutta, 74), Rennedy Singh, Palash Karmakar (Sunil Chhetri, 59); George Ekeh, Jose Ramirez Barreto.
Referee: M.K. Roy (Assam).
Coach gives up
Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya said it was impossible for his team to defend the title with the quality of defenders at his disposal. “It’s just not possible to dream of the title with this set of defenders. In fact, my team doesn’t have any suitable replacement in any department,” said Subrata. He also felt Tollygunge played “negative football.”
“We created more chances and converting half of them would have settled the issue. But Tollygunge never tried to wrest the initiative either.”
On the contrary, Subrata’s Tollygunge counterpart Aloke Mukherjee hailed his reserve bench for the unexpected result. “I have always paid equal attention to regulars and reserves and today after going in with a new defensive combination, I must say my effort are paying dividends.”
Mohun Bagan’s injured star Bhaichung Bhutia admitted the defeat was a serious blow since it came after successive wins in away matches. “The team was having a good run, but the break in the League (it resumes January 28 after the Durand Cup, IFA Shield and SAFF Cup) should help us recharge our batteries,” said the India captain.