| Akeem Abolanle (left) rushes to congratulate Moses Owira after the latter scored the Tollygunge matchwinner against ITI at Salt Lake Stadium on Tuesday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta: All’s well that ends well. Tollygunge Agragami coach Aloke Mukherjee must have thought this at the end of his team’s 3-2 win over ITI in the National Football League match at Salt Lake Stadium on Tuesday. The home team required a 90-minute winner from Moses Owira to claim some badly-needed points as the country’s premier tournament completed its first phase.
The win ensured Tollygunge had some breathing space with 13 points from 11 matches before their first second-phase encounter against Salgaocar on Friday at the same venue, while the Bangalore outfit stayed at the bottom with three.
Beyond such calculations, what took the centrestage were the ‘heroics’ of the rival goalkeepers. It was a nightmarish day for Arindam Ghosh and Gumpe Rime and their adventurism (sic) was smeared with so much comedy of errors that it can easily feature in a coaching manual to highlight what one must not do as the last man in defence.
For example, Ashim Biswas’ left-footed 30-yarder, which gave Tollygunge Agragami a fifth-minute lead, was a straight-forward ball but Rime completely misjudged the flight.
Nine minutes later, it was Arindam’s turn to return the compliment. He came out of his position awkwardly and failed to collect a harmless Ragui Singh cross from the right. As the ball landed into a jungle of feet near the six-yard box, Ibrahim Karim al-Hasan slammed in off a melee.
Within two minutes, Mukherjee’s team conceded another goal, almost in similar fashion. He erred in his outing and failed to collect a fifty-fifty ball from Jude Nwadu, and as the ball rolled over to Ragui, the ITI midfielder slotted it in.
Mukherjee brought in Sujit Neogi in defence and let Isiaka Awoyemi join the attack following the break. But the Tollygunge leveller was as much an outcome of such reinforcement in the penetrative zone as Rime’s foolish outing. He unnecessarily went after a high Akeem Abolanle cross in the far post and let the ball fall in Moses’ way. The Nigerian gladly poked home.
Following the 57thminute equaliser, Tollygunge inexplicably withdrew into their zone and spent some anxious moments before Moses cashed in on another poor outing from Rime and headed home the winner in the final minute.
Coincidentally, Santosh Basu, a former ’keeper of Big Two repute, was the adjudicator of the Man of the Match award and his choice was Tollygunge central defender Debkumar Sasmal.
Tollygunge Agragami: Arindam Ghosh; Amitava Chanda (Sujit Neogi, 64), Isiaka Awoyemi, Debkumar Sasmal, Dipayan Majumdar; Mehtab Hossain (Biswarup Bishu, 8), Sandeep Das, Srikanta Dutta (Sujoy Dutta, 80); Moses Owira, Ashim Biswas, Akeem Abolanle.
ITI: Gumpe Rime; Ropesh, Sunil Kumar, A.S. Firoz, Akshay Das, James Singh; Ragui Singh, J. Murali (Najeeb, 58), Dhanesh, Ibrahim Karm al-Hasan; Jude Nwadu.
Referee: Shaji Kurian (Kerala).