| Bhaichung Bhutia is thwarted by Churchill goalkeeper Edward Ansah at Salt Lake Stadium Sunday. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta: Class never dies. Into the final ten minutes of the match, Jose Ramirez Barreto received a pass on the right-end pocket of the central half-line. George Ekeh was standing in an off-side position at that time, but the Brazilian was quick to notice Churchill Brothers goalkeeper Edward Ansah out of his charge.
In a jiffy came the release off his right leg — deft, intelligent and, most importantly, accurate. His high lob travelled a distance of about 45 yards before it dipped in to disturb the nets, despite Ansah’s desperate stretch.
It was Barreto at his best and was justifiably adjudged Man of the Match. True, the contest in the match was almost over by then, with Mohun Bagan leading by two goals. True, with Mohun Bagan’s hopes of retaining the most prestigious title in domestic football now hanging by a thin thread, there was hardly a crowd to witness the goal.
All this seems a different story now. But no doubt, it was typical —a prototype, so to say — of what Barreto is all about when he is on a song.
Left with the motivation of finishing second in the National Football League — a place that will ensure Subrata Bhattacharya’s side a berth in Asia’s richest club tournament, AFC Champions League — Mohun Bagan looked convincing in notching up a facile 3-0 triumph over the Goan rivals at Salt Lake Stadium this afternoon. Sunil Chhetri and George Ekeh scored the other goals.
Had Ekeh not missed at least four sitters — every time with Ansah at his mercy — the victory margin could easily have worn an awe-inspiring look.
In line with Subrata’s recent strategy, Bhaichung started with Ekeh upfront, with Barreto playing as a withdrawn forward. Mohun Bagan opened the scoreline in the ninth minute through a copybook finish. A swerving Rennedy Singh floater from the left was headed home by Chhetri.
The first blood was followed by a couple of gilt-edged chances which fell Ekeh’s way and one had to see them to believe how the Liberian made a hash of those opportunities. Fed on a through once each from Bhaichung and Barreto, the striker had only the goalkeeper to beat, but on both occasions he could not even take a proper shot.
He again failed to hit the target from close on another couple of occasions after the break.
However, Ekeh made amends by scoring an opportunistic goal on the hour-mark. The chance was actually created by Bhaichung when his trapping of Lolendra Singh’s left-wing minus drew the goalkeeper out of his position. But Ekeh rushed in to drive home the ball before his teammate could reach it.
Mohun Bagan: Rajat Ghosh Dastidar; Dulal Biswas, Yakubu Mallam Rabiu, Kajal Bhattacharya, Lolendra Singh; Jayanta Sen, Sunil Chhetri (Ranjan Dey, 45), Jose Ramirez Barreto, Rennedy Singh (Sheikh Sanjib, 46); Bhaichung Bhutia, George Ekeh.
Churchill Brothers: Edward Ansah; Rajesh Metei, Osumanu Husseni, Mahesh Gawli, Farooq Hyder (Denzie Ferrao, 65); Roque Barreto, Noel Wilson (Zaheer Abbas Hamza, 46), Nascimento Silveira, Ratan Singh; Benjamin Ansah, Tiken Singh (Preetam Bahadur, 76).
Referee: Rizwanul Haq (Delhi).