| Vasco goalkeeper Saji Joy palms away Akeem Abolanle’s effort at the Salt Lake Stadium on Tuesday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Vasco arrested the Goan slide in the Tata Federation Cup, but the ‘credit’ should go to Tollygunge Agragami.
Subrata Bhattacharya’s men did everything a top-notch football team is not supposed to do. They spurned half a dozen chances to get an insurance goal after Amit Das had put them ahead late in the first session and, then, let in an 88th-minute equaliser.
Vasco got the lifeline they were looking for and there was more coming their way.
With the scoresheet remaining 1-1 after half-hour of extra-time, just about everyone scored from the penalty spot till a reluctant Kajal Bhattacharjee pushed his shot straight into a relieved custodian Saji Joy’s hands.
Tollygunge Agragami had suffered sudden-death at 6-7 and the fault was all theirs. Vasco accepted the hosts’ magnanimity with both hands and became the second Goan outfit (after Salgaocar) to make the last eight following the exit of Churchill Brothers, Dempo and Haywards Sporting.
Vasco now count the hours to a royal date with the high-flying East Bengal, who are expected to sweep past HAL on Thursday.
Tollygunge are yet to settle down as a fully cohesive unit despite playing a handful of Super Division League games. But they have in their ranks players like Amit Das and Akeem Abolanle who can spell trouble in the rival defence with their skill.
On Tuesday, Amit operated from a fixed zone, but he was the master of all he surveyed on the left channel. He came up with some incisive through balls and also moved into scoring positions when Akeem was doing the spadework.
It was Akeem who messed up Tollygunge’s first couple of openings. He sort of made up by providing Amit with a defence-splitting pass minutes before half-time. Amit took his time to control the ball in the middle of the slush and then slotted home a right-footer past Saji. After another Akeem miss, it was Amit’s turn to shoot wide from 12 yards.
In between, Vasco had a pleasant spell when they dominated possession and threatened to break through. Denis Cabral, Menino Fernandes and Levy Coelho lorded over the midfield, especially after half-time, but either the final pass was awry or Agnelo Gomes was found wanting in the striking zone.
Goalkeeper Samit Debnath, playing his first game in the absence of regular ’keeper Chinmoy Banerjee, got away with a yellow card — and a poor indirect free-kick try from Vasco — for handling a back-pass. But he got exposed two minutes from full time. A stray high ball had him rushing charge and stopping midway. Substitute Anthony Fernandes’ tame header bounced in front of the goal and rolled in.
In the shootout, Menino, Cabral, Kamal Thapa, John Dias, Vinu Jose and Coelho scored. On target for Tollygunge were Amit, Akeem, Isiaka, Gautam Debnath and Suman Dutta, before Kajal played the villain.
Subrata under fire
Subrata was the ‘target’ of Tollygunge officials and members after the disappointing loss. “The members are very disappointed with our results this season... they want an explanation. The football secretary will sit with the coach to discuss the situation and ways and means to get out of this mess,” said club secretary Mantoo Ghosh.
VASCO: Saji Joy, Seby Dias, Selwyn Fernandes, John Dias, Vinu Jose, Menino Fernandes, Denis Cabral, Sukhwinder Singh (Sushant Mathew, 56), K. Ajayan (Kamal Thapa, 55), Agnelo Gomes (Anthony Fernandes, 74), Levy Coelho.
TOLLYGUNGE AGRAGAMI: Samit Debnath, Sanjoy Das, Isiaka Awoyemi, Sujit Neogi, Suman Dutta, Amit Das, Chinmoy Sarkar (Kajal Bhattacharjee, 32), Gouranga Dutta (Prakash Koley, 24), Gautam Debnath, Kaustav Ghosh (Laltu Das, 71), Akeem Abolanle.
Referee: Stanley Gregory.