| Jeremiah scored the second for Ever-Ready
Calcutta: Honours were shared in Sunday’s battle of ‘lesser’ teams of the Super Division League. Tollygunge Agragami drew the game after being 0-2 down to squash Ever-Ready’s chances of avenging their first-leg defeat, but they may still lose out to the same team in the race for the fourth spot.
The stalemate ended Ever-Ready’s campaign, leaving them on 23 points from 16 matches. Tollygunge Agragami, placed third after the first phase, have 21 from 15 and only a win over East Bengal in their last match can push them up. East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting are certain to take the first three spots.
The importance of a battle for the fourth spot didn’t seem to bother the administrators in IFA and even the match officials. Led by referee Pijush Biswas, his assistants arrived at the East Bengal ground over 20 minutes after the scheduled kick-off time. And as if to underline the administrative apathy towards the game, the fourth referee never turned up!
All this didn’t deter the players from dishing out some exciting stuff though. The quality of the contest, probably, wasn’t noteworthy but the intensity of it was difficult to ignore. Eugene Grey and Ernest Jeremiah put Ever-Ready ahead by the half-time and a charged up Tollygunge replied through Akim Abolanle and Sandip Das after resumption.
Tollygunge appeared to have shaping up better in the first half when a silly error by captain Sujit Neogi resulted in the first goal. The defender’s attempted back-pass inside the box was needless and invited danger. Jeremiah latched onto the ‘gift’, and resisting the temptation of shooting himself, passed it to Grey who calmly slotted home.
The goal upset Tollygunge’s rhythm completely. There was no attempt to stretch the wings and miss passes were aplenty. Not that Ever-Ready was any great shake, but they sensed this disorganisation in the rival ranks and started playing with added zest. They were throwing themselves everywhere to foil raids and even increasing men upfront.
The second goal came in the 41st minute, when Dulal Biswas ran down the right and his centre hit a retreating Isiaka Awoyemi on the arm inside the box. It wasn’t intentional but did stop the ball from reaching a well-placed Jeremiah, prompting the referee to award a penalty.
Though Jeremiah’s shot from the spot wasn’t great, it went in after hitting the goalkeeper’s outstretched left hand. It was the Nigerian’s ninth goal — putting him just one behind East Bengal’s Mike Okoro on the goal-scorers’ list. The Nigerian’s effort is remarkable since it took him just eight matches to score nine goals.
Tollygunge lifted their game by several notches after half-time. Akim had moved in after spending most of the first half on the wings and there was more enterprise in raids down the flanks.
The reducer came in the 60th minute when Goutam Debnath relayed the ball to Akim following a move down the left and the Nigerian rifled a low right-footer into the goal.
A few misses followed and the equaliser came after a blunder by the Ever-Ready defence. Following a horrible misunderstanding between goalkeeper Kalyan Chowbey and the central defenders, a loose ball sneaked through, gifting Sandip a free header, which went in.
The remaining part of the match was interesting and Jeremiah was twice prevented from scoring the winner by the young Shamit Debnath under the Tollygunge bar.
Ever-Ready: Kalyan Chowbey; Dulal Biswas, Tapan Giri, Wajid Ali, Rajib Ahmed; Mohammed Rafique, Shankha Roy Chowdhury, Biswarup Bishu (Tarak Nath, 84), Satyajit Ghosh; Eugene Grey (Surojit Chakraborty, 84), Ernest Jeremiah.
Tollygunge Agragami: Samit Debnath; Kabijit Khotel, Isiaka Awoyemi, Sujit Neogi, Partha Sarathi Dey; Suman Dutta, Sandip Das, Kajal Bhattacharya (Temzen Kibang, 78), Chinmoy Sarkar (Manik Barman, 42); Amit Das (Goutam Debnath, 46), Akim Abolanle.
Referee: Pijush Biswas.