| Vasco scorers Marcos Pereira (left) and Angelo Gomes at the Salt Lake Stadium Wednesday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: The depth and strength of a team lies in its belief. Mohun Bagan seem to have forgotten how to fight. At the Salt Lake Stadium Wednesday they not only lost their Oil PSU National Football League return match to Vasco Sports Club of Goa, but also their pride.
It wasn’t as if Mohun Bagan were expecting it easy versus the Goans. In the first leg, having taken the lead, Bagan had to be satisfied with a 1-1 draw. Wednesday, Bagan were down a humiliating 0-3 before stages of complacency in the Vasco defence allowed two in, and the final result read 3-2 in Vasco’s favour.
With East Bengal’s loss to JCT, the situation has suddenly improved for Vasco. The Goans are now in second spot, with 34 points from 18 matches. East Bengal stay on 43 points from 18 matches, and Bagan are on 29 points from 18 matches. JCT are third now with 31 points from 18 matches, and Salgaocar could move into the fifth slot, since they have 29 points from 17 matches so far.
The top teams have four matches to go after the month-long break, for the title to be decided. Wednesday’s match, thus, was the virtual burial of all Bagan hopes.
Bagan did try a couple of attacks early in the match, but a sixth-minute George Ekeh shot from close missed the target, while a 14th minute Jose Ramierz Barreto centre was missed by both Bhaichung Bhutia and Ekeh at the goalmouth.
Vasco did not waste time when they attacked. In the 15th minute Sanjay Parte moved up the left and lobbed to Marcos Pereira in the box. Nobody in the Bagan defence cared to present a challenge, and Marcos headed home easily. Goalkeeper Rajat Ghosh Dastidar also failed to react.
Problem was that even the Bagan attack line failed to react to this reverse. In the 21st minute Marcos was up again and beat Yakubu Mallam Rabiu in speed, passing to Agnelo Gomes at the goalmouth. Kajal Bhattacharya and Lolendra Singh failed to intercept and Agnelo had all the time to slot home.
Barreto, as usual stood out amid the Bagan ruins. He was moving, trying to make the lethargic team move, and trying to open out chances. In the 30th minute an attempt by him was thwarted somehow by Rogerio Ramos, who had a good day under the Vasco bar.
That wasn’t enough for Bagan. They opened up the defence further and allowed Marcos to lope into the box, virtually unchallenged, in the 39th minute. Marcos took a high lob, thumped it down to control, and the bounce took the ball into the goal over Rajat’s head. That was Marcos’ 11th goal in the league, same as George Ekeh, and three short of leader Mike Okoro.
Bagan charged back early in the second half and did create a few chances, but it was not before the 77th minute that substitute Sunil Chhetri shot goalwards off a melee. While Barreto sold a fine dummy, the ball took the feet of Franky Barreto, before moving in off a far post ricochet.
Hope rose in the Bagan ranks, but the performance hardly improved. Three minutes to time Bhaichung Bhutia, wandering minstrel in the team, picked up a loose ball at the goalmouth, and with the Vasco defence in a lazy mood, shot home from an angle. The 0-3 ignominy had been averted, but not the ignominy of defeat.
VASCO SC: Rogerio Ramos, Seby Dias, Sanjay Parte, Franky Barreto, Sushant Mathew, Abhay Kumar ((Shamsi Reza, 88), Jules Alberto (Santa Singh, 79), Minino Fernandes, Marcos Pereira, Rui Wanderley, Agnelo Gomes (Nitin Pradhan, 84).
MOHUN BAGAN: Rajat Ghosh Dastidar, Dulal Biswas, Yakubu Mallam Rabiu, Kajal Bhattacharya, Lolendra Singh, Basudeb Mondal, Jose Ramirez Barreto, Palash Karmakar (Jayanta Sen, 24), Rennedy Singh (Sunil Chhetri, 54), George Ekeh, Bhaichung Bhutia.
Referee: Mushtak Pasha (Karnataka).