| Tollygunge Agragami players after beating East Bengal in the first match of the day at Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: “We’re here to become champions”. Subrata Bhattacharya’s pre-season assertion after joining DTDC Tollygunge Agragami might just have raised a few eyebrows. But at the end of the Yamaha Libero one-day meet at the Salt Lake Stadium Sunday, it seems he has taken a (small) step in the right direction.
It was also a triumph for Subrata from a personal point of view. The man, who was unceremoniously discarded by Mohun Bagan as coach in April, could now sit back in relaxation, at least for a while, as his team offered him a just desert.
Tollygunge Agragami overcame the might of both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal to be crowned the champions of the local football season’s curtain-raiser meet, organised by the IFA. In a pulsating final, Tollygunge edged out Bagan 5-4 in the tie-breaker, after the game ended 1-1 in regulation time.
Tollygunge Agragami played a tactical game, utilising the free-space intelligently and creating a host of openings in the first session. Mohun Bagan, sans captain Rennedy Singh (out with a red card in the first game against Mohammedan Sporting), looked a disjointed unit in the first half (consisting of 30 minutes).
Tollygunge took the lead in the 15th minute when Ajay Singh played a square pass and Amit Das met it with a left-footed piledriver from outside the box. Mohun Bagan’keeper Imran Khan had no chance to stop the ball.
Mohun Bagan coach Aloke Mukherjee didn’t want to risk mercurial Ashim Biswas (nursing a knee injury) prior to the game. But he was forced to bring in his blue-eyed boy late in the first session, and Ashim was instrumental in lifting the green-and-maroon brigade back into the game.
The India striker continuously harassed the rival defenders, but for a little bit of support from his team mates, it could have been a dream start for Mohun Bagan.
Though the equaliser came off an own goal by Tenjen Kaibang, Ashim had a hand in it. He was breathing down Tenjen’s neck, when the defender headed it in, trying to clear a Manitombi Singh cross.
Mohun Bagan got a few opportunities towards the fag end, but failed to capitalise, drawing the game to a tie-breaker.
In the shoot-out, Tollygunge ’keeper Chinmoy Banerjee saved Hardeep Gill and Manitombi’s attempts, while Imran stopped Parathi Sarathi Dey’s shot.
Biman Mondal, Chinmoy Sarkar, Amit and Gouranga Debnath converted for Tollygunge Agragami while Ashim, Palash Karmakar, Mehtab Hossian found the mark for Bagan.
A horribly drab affair
Mohun Bagan had failed to beat Mohammedan Sporting twice in the last season. It changed a bit the first time they met this season, but only after a horribly drab affair.
Still, Mohammedan Sporting had the better of the possession, but Imran excelled both in regulation time as well as in the tie-breaker to ensure a 4-2 win for the Aloke’s side.
Mohammedan Sporting could have taken the lead in the second minute, when Rahim Nabi’s cracking left-footer effected a nice save from Imran.
Six minutes hence, Dipendu Biswas cut inside the rival box, but Imran again narrowed the angle to deny Mohammedan Sporting a surefire chance.
In the tie-breaker, he saved Dipendu and Khalid Siddique’s attempts, while Rishi Kapoor missed the target for Bagan.
Palash, Sunil Chhettri, Gill and Manitombi converted for Bagan while Hussain Mustafi and Bungo Singh did it for Mohammedan Sporting.
Rennedy for Bagan and Amjad Ansari of Mohammedan Sporting were given marching orders following a brawl late in the second session.
Not EB’s day
It may not have been East Bengal’s day, but the National League champions showed in the 60 minutes they were on pitch that better things are in store. They surely looked the fittest of the four units, and enterprisingly enough, even in this early phase of the season, the red-and-gold boys were running at the same pace for most of the match.
Tollygunge, however, took the lead in the 29th minute, following a superb four-pass move. Amit played a great final pass for Shamsi Reza and the latter made no mistake to slot it home past Arpan Dey.
Bhaichung Bhutia’s inclusion the second session brought new life to the red-golds and they equalised in the 32nd minute. Debjit Ghosh’s booming right footer from 30 yards gave no chance to Chinmoy.
In the tie-breaker, Man of the Tournament Chinmoy saved Sashthi Duley’s attempt while Bhaichung’s shot struck the inside post and went out. While S. Malsawmtluanga and Bijen Singh found the mark for East Bengal, Shamsi, Chimnoy Sarkar, Partha Sarathi and Biman scored for Tollygunge.