| East Bengalís Trijit Das tries to get past Vasco defender Sebi Dias during their IFA Shield semi-final match at Salt Lake Stadium Sunday. Jiten Rai (behind) looks on. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta: The 108th edition of the TVS Fiero IFA Shield may have hogged limelight for all the wrong reasons ó teams crying foul over hectic schedules, lack of crowd backing and Mohun Baganís non-participation.
But for one player, the tournament has been a huge boost. Suley Musah, who was struggling to make the East Bengal first XI, has really carved a niche for himself making the meet more of a one-man show. Having been out of the bench for quite sometime and failing to inspire coachís confidence, the Ghanaian chose the Shield as a perfect platform to prove his point as the depleted red-and-gold brigade downed Vasco SC 2-0 to make the finals at the Salt Lake Stadium Sunday.
His heroics against Tollygunge Agragami ensured his teamís passage to semi-finals. He repeated the performance drawing first blood and then creating another goal for Jiten Rai.
Coach Subhas Bhowmick also deserves special mention for the way he utilised Musahís defensive and attacking instincts to perfection.
Having achieved an early lead, when Musah headed home a Douglas free-kick in the 18th minute, Bhowmick wisely brought the Ghanaian behind the backline as the entire team momentarily withdrew. Musah, on at least three occasions, nipped the Vasco charges in the bud right in front of the penetrative zone.
As Vasco started becoming more ambitious in search of an equaliser, Musah became the key man in counter-attacks, one of which resulted in the second goal.
Eight minutes from time, substitute Chandan Dasí widish flag-kick found Musah on the far end. With a deft lob, he steered clear of Sebi Diasí challenge and opened up the goalmouth. Jiten, lurking nearby, however, banged home, before Musah could go after it, giving Vasco custodian and captain Rogerio Ramos no chance to react.
With time running out, Vasco suffered a severe blow in their attempt to turn things around with defender Sanjay Parte receiving marching orders for a double booking in the 85th minute.
Soon before and after the first goal, East Bengal missed a couple of easy chances. First, Amjad Ali Khan broke free on the right and entered the box unchallenged. Eventually, he shot straight to a defender while a square pass to Trijit, standing near him, could have been a better option.
Trijit, himself was the culprit a little later, when he reacted late to a defence-splitting through from Jiten.
Vasco might have enjoyed the lionís share of ball possession, but they first came close to scoring on the half hour mark. Brazilian Rui Wanderley stumbled upon a loose ball near the box, but couldnít connect properly.
East Bengalís retreat allowed the opponents to come back into the match with some good passing football. However, in the absence of injured playmaker Marcos Pereira, they looked listless in the penetrative zone.
The home team played a counter-attack based game in the second half and Shasthi Duley should have scored a goal four minutes before his team actually extended the lead.
Douglas, loping up down the left wing, delivered a perfect square pass across the rival backline, which found an unmarked Shasthi inside the box. But the diminutive midfielder failed to slot home from hand-shaking distance of Ramos.
East Bengal: Sangram Mukherjee; Amjad Ali Khan, Arun Malhotra, Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, Douglas de Silva Santos; Sankarlal Chakraborty, Shasthi Duley, Suley Musah, Jiten Rai (Soumitra Chakraborty, 86), K. Kulothungan (Chandan Das, 45).
Vasco SC: Rogerio Ramos; Sebi Dias, Sanjay Parte, Franky Barreto, Agnelo Colaco; Shusanth Matthew (Daniel Colaco, 69), Minino Fernandes, Riston Rodrigues, Santa Singh; Nitin Pradhan (Antony Fernandes, 76), Rui Wanderley.
Referee: S. Suresh (Tamil Nadu).