| Two Ever-Ready defenders try to thwart Jose Ramirez Barreto at Mohun Bagan ground on Monday. (Inset) Rennedy Singh, who scored the winner with a direct free-kick. Pictures by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Twenty minutes into Mondayís CFL Super Division match, Ever-Ready were down to 10 men as medio Shankha Roy Chowdhury committed his second yellow-card offence. And yet, Mohun Bagan could only scrape through by the narrowest of margins ó that, too, resulting from a moment of brilliance.
Rennedy Singh, a specialist in dead-ball situations, curled a direct free-kick past a bewildered human wall from about 35 yards out to keep Mohun Baganís title hopes alive. It was the skipperís third free-kick goal this season, and by far the best. The placement was spot-on, the connection couldnít have been better.
Mohun Bagan, presented a lifeline by Abdul Rauf Khanís brilliant winner against East Bengal on Sunday, can force a play-off final if they manage to beat Tollygunge Agragami, Mohammedan Sporting and Mohammedan AC over the next eight days.
That is by no means a foregone conclusion if Mohun Baganís latest performance is considered a yardstick. Itís only goals that count in a soccer match and itís goals that Aloke Mukherjeeís team found so hard to deliver. Opportunities did crop up, not always through planned moves. But even somebody like Jose Ramirez Barreto kept missing the bullís eye from close range.
The second half, especially, saw Mohun Bagan raiding the under-manned Ever-Ready citadel time and again. Barreto alone could have notched up a hattrick within the first 15 minutes after change of ends. A glancing header off a Rennedy corner struck the inside edge of the crosspiece and bounced close to the goalline before being cleared. The Brazilian was then fed by countryman Marcos Parreira ó who otherwise had a forgettable outing ó via the skillful Mehtab Hussain but, incredibly, shot high over the target with only the custodian to beat.
Barreto wasted another accurate free-kick from Rennedy, heading it wide. Add a couple of misses by substitute Sunil Chhetri, and the story of Mohun Baganís profligacy is complete. Of course, there was an element of ill-luck, too, with Surojit Chakroborty effecting a goalline save and a Marcos header thudding into the crosspiece. But thatís all a part of the game and can never be used as an excuse.
To Ever-Readyís credit, they didnít cow down even after referee Chittaranjan Das Majumdar had sent Shankha off following fouls on first Mehtab and then Marcos. They continued playing an open game, encouraged no doubt by the enterprise shown upfield by the big-built African duo of Eugene Gray and Ernest Jeremiah.
Jeremiah, in fact, came tantalisingly close to breaching the Mohun Bagan defence twice in the second session, after the introduction of the energetic Mohammed Rafique. The burly Nigerian burst through, following a pass from Biswarup Bishu, sending stoppers Debkumar Sasmal and Sanjiv Maria the wrong way, but his on-the-run shot was two feet off target.
Mohun Bagan: Prasanta Dora, Babun Kar, Sanjiv Maria, Debkumar Sasmal, Palash Karmakar (Manitombi Singh, 46), Mehtab Hussain (Insan Ali, 87), Basudeb Mondal, Hardip Saini, Rennedy Singh, Marcos Parreira, Jose Ramirez Barreto (Sunil Chhetri, 72).
Ever-Ready: Soumen Mondal, Dulal Biswas, Surojit Chakraborty, Wajid Ali, Rajib Amed, Jayanta Sen, Shankha Roy Chowdhury, Biswarup Bishu (Surajit Chakraborty, 76), Satyajit Bose (Mohammad Rafique, 61), Eugene Gray, Ernest Jeremiah.
Referee: Chittaranjan Das Majumdar.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has sought an explanation from the AIFF regarding the fiasco after Thursdayís East Bengal-Mohun Bagan match. Mohun Bagan players charged at referee Subrata Sarkar after the Super Division derby. The AIFF has asked the IFA to furnish details.