| Rafique, the goal- scorer
Calcutta: Ever-Ready presented their ailing coach Amal Dutta with a life-inspiring win when they surprised fancied Mohammedan Sporting 1-0 at Salt Lake Stadium on Tuesday.
Exactly a week ago, the defensive strategy adopted by Dutta — who had by-pass surgery on Monday — against Mohun Bagan had the green and maroon players locked in a goalless draw. Without Dutta, his team adopted the same modus operandi in getting past the black-and-white brigade.
On Tuesday, Mohammedan Sporting looked lacklustre and awfully inept in dictating proceedings. This was the second loss for Mohammed Habeeb’s men — the first being at Port Trust’s hands — and they are now on 12 points from six matches. If things do not fall into place soon, a Super Six berth may elude the team, which made its maiden entry into the National League this year.
On the contrary, Ever-Ready, on 11, seem to be getting more focussed by the day as they aim for a foothold in the elite stage in their debut year itself. The solitary goal of the match, in a way, reflected the contrast between the teams — Ever-Ready, determined to win and Mohammedan Sporting, destined to lose.
In the 22nd minute, an overlapping Eugene Gray was fed on a midfield-borne inviting through. The Liberian easily outran Amjad Ali and went further forward along the left flank. Mohammedan Sporting’s central defenders — Hussain Mustafi and Satish Bharti — were caught napping when Gray’s cross found Mohammed Rafique between the two rival players. Rafique made full use of the space given to him by the defenders and slotted home with a right footer.
Within a couple of minutes of the setback, Bharti had a chance to make amends, but his header off a corner went inches wide of the post. In search of the equaliser, Mohammedan Sporting upped the tempo in the second half. But they lacked ideas in their offensive build-ups.
Had they shown the same verve and vigour in attack, as they did in claiming a penalty and protesting against referee Ashish Chakraborty on innumerable occasions, the 15,000-odd supporters would not have returned home frustrated. The match was held up when Ever-Ready’s Jayanta Sen was struck with a missile from the gallery. The players argued with the referee after the match and the latter had to be escorted off by the police.
In a post-match analysis, Habeeb rued that despite being told to play along the ground, his boys had stuck to the policy of chipping the ball into the box. The Mohammedan Sporting coach was also miffed with the referee for turning a blind eye to Ever-Ready’s time-wasting ploys and turning down “demands for at least two penalties” from his boys.
Ever-Ready: Kalyan Chowbey; Rajib Ahmed, Surajit Chakraborty, Wajid Ali, Bimal Sarkar; Jayanta Sen, Biswarup Bishu, Sushil Kartak (Surojit Chakraborty (37), Satyajit Bose, Eugene Gray; Mohammed Rafique.
Mohammedan Sporting: Bivash Ghosh; Amjad Ali Khan, Hussain Mustafi, Satish Bharti, Amandeep Singh; Bungo Singh, Shahnaz Iqbal, Khaled Siddiqui (Satish Minz, 46), Sheikh Sanjib (Akbar Singh, 65); Rahim Nabi, Dipendu Biswas.
Referee: Ashish Chakraborty.