| Mohammedan Sporting players cock-a-hoop after their win over Mohun Bagan on Tuesday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal l Reactions, Vasco-Mahindra semi-final preview on S4
Calcutta: The giant in Mohammedan Sporting has indeed woken up. And so methodical and motivated was the rise from slumber that defending champions Mohun Bagan had to bow out of the Tata Federation Cup in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
After a barren ninety minutes and extra half an hour, ten-man Mohammedan Sporting shot out Aloke Mukherjee’s side 5-4, Basudeb Mondal being the lone man to find himself on the wrong side of the scoreline.
Hussain Mustafi, Amandeep Singh, Amjad Ali Khan, Akbar Singh and Arjan Ali found the net for the winners. Jose Ramirez Barreto, Rennedy Singh, Marcos Pareira and Sunil Chhetri matched them step by step till the Mohun Bagan veteran’s shocking kick, which went way off target.
It now seems time for the black-and-white brigade to lay their hands on the crown after 14 years. They had lost to Salgaocar in the 1989 final. Come Saturday, they have a chance to make amends for that against the winner of the Vasco SC-Mahindra United game.
The match was marred as much by missed chances as the players’ strained tempers. Mohammedan Sporting’s Habeeb Adekunle was marched out in the 90th minute for a double booking (He fouled Pareira on both occasions), while five others — three from Mohun Bagan — were cautioned for rough play.
Mohammedan Sporting got off to an explosive start, putting the rival defence to test with a flurry of attacks. The move was clearly meant to catch Mohun Bagan off guard at a time when the players were trying to shake off the initial lethargy.
Khaled Siddiqui and Rahim Nabi were off target when chances fell their way inside the first couple of minutes. The latter, in particular, should have cursed himself for failing to take advantage of an awful misunderstanding between right-back Babun Kar and his goalkeeper, while clearing a harmless right-wing cross from Mustafi.
Mohun Bagan found a corner in between, but they had the first genuine look at the Mohammedan Sporting goal in the 26th minute. Marcos met with a header, off a typical curling Rennedy flag-kick, which was ably tipped over the bar by M.K. Refeek.
However, the way Dipendu messed up the 33-rd minute opportunity was inexplicable. Siddiqui fed Sanjib on the right and the lanky forward worked his way towards the box in a jinking run. His subsequent cross found his captain clear inside the box, but Dipendu came up with an atrocious header, with Arindam Ghosh at his mercy.
The change of sides, however, saw both teams swapping their styles. Mohun Bagan made their intention clear by bringing in Basudeb in the first half and Mehtab Hossain thereafter, to add punch to their attack. Mohammedan Sporting, on the other hand, made a strategic retreat to their zone by way of replacing medio Bungo Singh with defender Satish Bharti.
This meant Basudeb had now been given a stage to operate. A flurry of sorties ensued, keeping the Mohammedan Sporting defence on tenterhooks. Marcos did a Dipendu in the 60th minute, failing to keep his header on target while Barreto reacted late in pounding on a low cross from his countrymate.
Soon after, Barreto’s desperate stretch was not enough to convert an inviting Rennedy cross as goal continued to elude the green and maroon.
Credit should also go to Refeek for his outstanding performance under the bar. Whenever the backline was breached, Refeek stood tall, giving assurance to his teammates and inspiring them to fight more doggedly. And there was Iqbal Shahnawaz Khan, who superbly executed his marking on Barreto. The Brazilian was so frustrated that sometimes he had to pull at his marker’s shirts to make way.
Mohammedan Sporting: K.M. Refeek; Amjad Ali Khan, Hussain Mustafi, Habib Adekunle, Amandeep Singh; Bungo Singh (Satish Bharti, 61), Iqbal Shahnawaz Khan, Khalid Siddiqui, Rahim Nabi (Arjan Ali, 96); Dipendu Biswas, Sheikh Sanjib (L. Akbar Singh, 81).
Mohun Bagan: Arindam Ghosh; Babun Kar, Harpreet Singh, Debkumar Sasmal,Manitombi Singh; Hardeep Saini (Basudeb Mondal, 34), Hardeep Gill (Sunil Chhetri, 105), Chukwuma Akuneto (Mehtab Hossain, 71), Rennedy Singh; Jose Ramirez Barreto, Marcos Pareira.
Referee: K. Sankar (Tamil Nadu).