| Mohun Bagan’s Jose Ramirez Barreto shoots one past Isiaka Awoyemi of Tollygunge Agragami at the Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Had you said this to Aloke Mukherjee’s wards late into the first leg of this Super Division season, they probably would have laughed it off. But Mohun Bagan actually became league leaders on Thursday. That was after their 3-0 victory over Tollygunge Agragami at Salt Lake Stadium.
Maybe it is this weird IFA rule that allows the team having conceded less goals to override one with a better goal differential (and having scored more too). But East Bengal are surely No. 2 now (on the same 35 points from 14 matches).
It all depends on the teams’ next engagements, and how they conduct themselves. The league is open, yet.
It was victory in a canter, a slow-paced match in which neither team exerted and except for a couple of goals which were a treat to watch, there wasn’t much fun in the football on show.
The lead came in the 30th minute when Mohun Bagan had been sitting on the rival defence for a time, shooting around. There was a flag-kick from the left and as the ball reached the goalmouth an overlapping Sanjiv Maria headed down but Partha Dey made a goalline save. The slip went to Basudeb Mondal whose shot was parried by goalkeeper Chinmoy Banerjee, only for Mehtab Hussein to lob it back at goalmouth and for Rennedy Singh to lead this side-volley into the netting.
Jose Ramirez Barreto was moving free, but this wasn’t helping, really, till Sunil Chhetri came in, for an ineffective Hardeep Saini. That allowed Marcos Parreira to move down and create space and feed. That also allowed Barreto to move unhindered, as Rennedy and Chhetri managed interchanges. Even Mehtab Hussein was managing his time around the goalmouth. In the 68th minute one of his volleys from inside the box was tipped over by goalkeeper Banerjee.
By then the Tollygunge Agragami defence had crumbled, and the attacks had tapered off to trickles. Bagan were having it too easy, actually, with the basic Tollygunge approach being too amateurish.
In the 73rd minute Rennedy was up the left, sending a rising centre across the goalmouth. Barreto came in swiftly from the right and rose to head in quickly. It was a fine goal.
Sixteen minutes of statutory onfield movements later, Hussein pushed an initiative from the rear and Barreto latched on. It was a smooth move, cutting through the defence line and past the goalkeeper before placing in his seventh goal of this league so far and his team’s third this day.
The issue had been sealed.
Bagan coach Aloke Mukherjee later said he was happy the strategy of pushing Marcos down later with the introduction of Chhetri, worked. “Barreto and I had worked this out, and I am happy this coach-player understanding bore fruit.”
He said this play-off scenario was exciting, but that he wasn’t too desperate midway “because in a marathon league so any changes can happen, and it did.
“Look, I had to play within my limitations, and that was what I had decided. We overcame a lot, as a team, and now that we are here, it will be well worth the time to go full throttle at it.”
Mohun Bagan: Prasanta Dora (Billy Fang Narzary, 88), Palash Karmakar, Deb Kumar Shasmal (Harpreet Singh, 79), Sanjiv Maria, Manitombi Singh, Mehtab Hussein, Basudeb Mondal, Rennedy Singh, Hardeep Saini (Sunil Chhetri, 34), Jose Ramirez Barreto, Marcos Parreira.
Tollygunge Agragami: Chinmoy Banerjee, Kobijit Khotel, Isiaka Awoyemi, Kajal Bhattacharya, Partha Dey, Tenzen Kibang (Gautam Debnath, 28; Chinmoy Sarkar, 68), Suman Dutta (Prakash Koley, 83), Shamsi Reza, Sandip Das, Amit Das, Laltu Das.
Referee: Jayanta Sarkar.