| Sunil Chhetri scores Mohun Bagan's second goal against Tollygunge Agragami during their National League match at Salt Lake Stadium Monday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta: Mohun Bagan took sweet revenge of their first-leg loss with a comprehensive 2-0 second-leg win over Tollygunge Agragami in the seventh Oil PSU National Football League (NFL) match at Salt Lake Stadium on Monday.
Jose Ramirez Barreto and Sunil Chhetri scored a goal apiece inside the first 25 minutes as the defending champions returned to winning ways after their defeat to Vasco SC and JCT in the past couple of matches. Bagan now have 32 points from 20 matches while Tollygunge remain with 22 points.
If revenge and pride were the key elements for Subrata Bhattacharya to motivate his team, the lure, however faint and fuzzy it might appear to have been, of a top-six place was also there. This is from where you have a right to stake a claim to the prize money. With the top place now certain to go to either East Bengal or Vasco, the rest of the battle is now confined to Salgaocar, JCT, Mohun Bagan, Churchill Brothers and Mahindra United.
In a rare moment of joy, Monday’s triumph gave Mohun Bagan a confirmation of even the top-five finish.
Mohun Bagan took an eight-minute lead, thanks to sheer genius of Barreto. When he received a backpass from Chhetri, the distance between him and the goal was about 2 yards but, more importantly, there was a crowd of Tollygunge players in front of him. For others, passing the ball to one of his teammates or sending a cross would have been a better option.
But Barreto thought otherwise. He took a measured swerving shot, which crashed high into the net, even though goalkeeper Sibram Dey was moving backward to take his position, anticipating a cross or a move from the flank.
If that was mark of a genius, Chhetri’s goal, 16 minutes later, bore sheer class of a prodigious talent. The diminutive striker received a ball on the left. His cut-back action left first challenger Isiaka Awoyemi clueless and with a brilliant outside jab, he cleared away from Debkumar Sashmal. He ended up slotting home after even dodging past Sibram.
The match was also important for Bhaichung Bhutia, amid growing disenchantment from club officials and fans about his injury-ridden, unimpressive, if not slipshod, performance. He was still struggling to get over injury, but fans can take heart from the fact that he looked sincere in making a triumphant return.
On Monday, he did everything but hitting the target. A sudden back-volley, swift turn, aerial superiority — everything was there and showed how desperate he was in proving his detractors wrong.
Mohun Bagan: Bivash Ghosh; Palash Karmakar, Dulal Biswas, Yakubu, Lolendra Singh; Sheikh Sanjib (Jayanta Sen, 26), Basudeb Mondal (Ranjan Dey, 70), Jose Ramirez Barreto (Ajay Singh, 85), Rennedy Singh; Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chhetry.
Tollygunge Agragami: Sibram Dey; Isiaka Awoyemi, Debkumar Sashmal, Sujit Neogi; Mehtab Hossain (Laltu Das, 73), Sandip Das, Moses Owira, Sujay Dutta, Biswarup Basu (Kabijit Khotel, 46); Ashim Biswas, Akeem Abolanle.
Referee: Benjamin de Silva (Goa).