| A cheerful Suley Musah after netting all three versus Wari Monday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: A second half hattrick by Suley Musah earned East Bengal a 3-0 victory over Wari in the Super Division Monday.
A heavy downpour that lashed the city half-an-hour before the match had reduced the East Bengal ground into small puddles all around. It was not without reason that coach Subhas Bhowmick was livid about being forced to play in such conditions.
Good football, therefore, should not have been expected to be the order of the day, but East Bengal did produce some entertainment with their lively attacking display. The ammunition in the East Bengal ranks was too much for Wari to handle.
Wari’s ploy of crowding their defensive zone did pay dividends in the first half, but as the home players stretched their game to the wings in the second half, things started falling into place for the defending champions. Bhowmick’s decision to push Musah upfront towards the end of the first half also proved to be a masterstroke.
Bhowmick continued to experiment with his team as a lead-up to the ASEAN Club Championship. However, as East Bengal struggled to open the rivals’ goal in the first half, Bhowmick brought in Chandan Das for Bijen Singh. Musah was moved ahead while Debjit Ghosh was asked to fall back. The Ghanaian used his speed and body weight to his advantage in the slushy conditions.
The result was almost immediate, Musah striking in the ninth minute after the change of ends. He headed in Shasthi Duley’s centre from inside the box almost unchallenged. Wari players had left Musah unmarked, thinking him to be in an offside position.
The second goal spoke volumes of Musah’s opportunistic instincts. Bhaichung Bhutia latched on to a Surkumar Singh through and as he broke free, goalkeeper Nasimul Haq came out of his charge to foil his attempt. The ball ran loose to Musah, who was lurking nearby, and East Bengal captain nodded in.
Nasimul, should be blamed for conceding the third goal, ten minutes from time. He slipped and fell in trying to anticipate Chandan’s header and Musah completed the formalities. It was his maiden hattrick in any form of competitive soccer, he revealed.
Nasimul, however, did prove his worth in the first half. Bhaichung’s flying header off a Suresh cross from the right was fisted away by him in an acrobatic effort.
East Bengal had their moments, too, with Bhaichung showing flashes of his genius. Alvito D’Cunha struggled to control the ball, Shylo Malsawmtluanga and Bijen Singh were also found wanting in opening up goalmouth channels.
A Bijen header was saved on the goalline by Palash Ghosh and Malsawmtluanga failed to get his act together after the ball was placed on a platter by Bhaichung inside the box.
Musah could have added a fourth to his kitty in the dying minutes but he failed to control the ball after being fed in the clear.
Incidentally, the other Super Division matches — Bhratri Sangha versus WB Police at Mohun Bagan ground and Ever-Ready vs Mohammedan AC at Rabindra Sarobar ground — could not be held because of inclement weather.
East Bengal: Sangram Mukherjee, Suley Musah, Deepak Mondal, M. Suresh, Surkumar Singh, Shylo Malsawmtluanga, Debjit Ghosh, Alvito D’Cunha (Dipankar Roy 59), Shasthi Duley, Bhaichung Bhutia (Raman Vijayan, 74), Bijen Singh (Chandan Das, 42).
Wari: Nasimul Haq, Samar Bhattacharjee, Palash Ghosh, Nayan Dey, Subhashish Banerjee, Bapi Halder (Farooq Bose, 63), Vijay Busfore, Parvez Alam, Deepak Das (Ujjwal Majhi, 59), Jahan Mehta, Supratik Aind (Sheikh Hidayatullah, 78).
Referee: Kashinath Sen.