| JCT custodian Mansuru Mohammed sinks to the ground after saving a spot kick in the penalty shootout against Churchill Brothers at Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: When East Bengal are making India proud on foreign soil, itís a shame that a premier tournament of the country is taking place on an unplayable ground.
The treacherous Salt Lake Stadium turf seemed the biggest obstacle in Mohun Baganís way to the quarter final of the Tata Federation Cup on Sunday. Moreover, a resolute State Bank of Travancore (SBT) did everything to give the defending champions a real run for their money in the first session.
But at the end of the day, the Brazilian star Jose Ramirez Barreto ensured that his very own green-and-maroon brigade made the last eight with a 2-1 win. He gave a lesson to everyone concerned when the others were struggling to get a footing on the slushy pitch.
Not only did Barreto set up the first goal for compatriot Marcos Pareira and himself seal the issue in the second session, he set up a number of chances for his teammates. Unfortunately for him, his mates were prompt to waste them one after another.
The Brazilian started up front, but often fell back to help his team in the preparatory zone. He was well supported by a hardworking Rennedy Singh and Mehtab Hossain, but Nigerian newcomer Chukwuma Akuneto was a big disappointment.
In his first match for Mohun Bagan, Akuneto was fielded as a defensive midfielder, but the best he did was to stop a booming Barreto right-footer from the SBT goalline.
SBT, playing a counterattack-based game, did give Mohun Bagan some tough time in the first session. Their attackers hardly faced any resistance and reached the Bagan penalty area easily at least on three occasions. And this doesnít speak well neither for the defenders, nor the defensive medio.
Bagan conceded the equaliser from one such move in the 35th minute. Lanel Thomas cut down the left and essayed a good minus on top of the six-yard box. Asif Saheer, who had missed a sitter a couple of minutes earlier, took a deft shot which beat goalkeeper Imran Khan and went into the net.
Mohun Bagan had taken the lead in the 20th minute when Barreto fooled a couple of SBT defenders and essayed a superb back-centre, which Marcos had only to head in.
Rennedy, in spite of his good work, did miss a couple of sitters. The first was in the 27th minute off a Barreto pass, when he shot straight into the rival íkeeper and the second at the stroke of half-time. Babun Kar cut in from the right and took a shot which deflected off the side-post, but the captain failed to tap in with the open goal in front.
The cross bar came in Baganís way of a bigger win, with Babun and Marcos both being denied in the second session. However, by then, Barretoís outswinging free-kick in the 55th minute from just outside the box had made sure Mohun Bagan will face JCT In the quarter final.
Mohun Bagan: Imran Khan, Manitombi Singh, Insan Ali, Rishi Kapoor, Debkumar Sashmol, Mehtab Hossain (Basudeb Mondal, 79), Hardeep Saini (Hardeep Gill, 50), Chukwuma Akuneto, Rennedy Singh, Jose Barreto, Marcos Pareira.
SBT: Harshal Rehman, Paul Antony, Siva Kumar, Abdul Basheer, Lanel Thomas, N.P. Pradeep (A.B. Kabeer, 65), T. Shabbir Ali, Abdul Noushad, Abdul Hakkim, Ashif Saheer, S. Ignatious (Biju Kumar, 75).
Referee: Dinesh Nair (Gujarat).