| Mohun Bagan’s Jose Ramirez Barreto being thwarted in a race for the ball by East Bengal’s Suley Musah as M. Suresh follows the action at Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: It was Mohun Bagan’s 20th title-grab, off the 109th Chlor-Mint IFA Shield at the Salt Lake Stadium Sunday, but the process wasn’t too emphatic and neither was the team glorious in victory. To that extent, East Bengal, missing several of their key players and playing the last ten of the 120 minutes with ten men, can call it a moral victory.
Regulation time and 30 minutes failed to yield goals and, in the end, Bagan prevailed 5-3 via the tiebreaker. But there were a couple of misses that shouldn’t have been, there was some atrocious refereeing and Alvito D’Cunha, who wasn’t supposed to play in the first place, came on for four minutes before hitting out (off ball) at Babun Kar and was thrown out.
It was hardly competition at any level and there was enough scope for Subhas Bhowmick’s wards to pull off a surprise the way they organised themselves. Coach Bhowmick is a pragmatic person, and, well aware of his strength and weaknesses. He pulled his only key player Suley Musah back into deep defence and placed him in full charge of Jose Ramierz Barreto. Thereafter wherever Barreto would go, Musah was sure to follow.
That created a vacuum of sorts in the Bagan forward line and Marcos Parreira wasn’t able to make up for the loss, nor was Rennedy Singh. It was a basic problem of poor passing and a lack of cohesion. Conversely, East Bengal were organised around their limited scope, and gave their all.
With the Mohun Bagan defence being what it is, the speedy Bijen Singhs, and Shylo Malsawmtluangas raided rival defence lines with impunity. The right flank was even more lively in the presence of the overlapping Sur Kumar Singh.
One also was witness to a weird situation where Musah was forcibly holding Barreto back, throwing him off balance on several occasions. This happened throughout the match, but referee J. Ravi Shankar from Delhi somehow failed to notice it each time. Shankar was not around for most of the decision that he arbitrarily took, being slow on the move.
In the 34th minute Chandan Das was up the right lifting the ball into the box from where Dipankar Roy’s header was off target. Four minutes later a Chandan Das free-kick went into the box and reached an overlapping Subhasis Roy Chowdhury. Subhasis headed it down but the ball took Babun Kar’s feet before goalkeeper Prasanta Dora collected.
In the 42nd minute Shylo Malsawmtluanga was up the right, passing to Sur Kumar. The latter should have taken more time to shoot. In the haste he put in straight onto the lap of Dora.
Mohun Bagan reorganised themselves in the second half and mounted a number of attacks, but poor passing and trapping got in the way of moves translating into goals.
In the 59th minute Barreto was up the left. Musah, as usual pushed him down to the ground, but lost control of the ball anyway. Rennedy took up the spill and passed to the goalmouth, to Mehtab Hussein. With goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee out of charge, slotting home was the easiest thing Mehtab could do. He failed to make any positive connection, and it looked he never really made that effort. That remained the best chance wasted in the match.
By extra time play was slowing down and little of the ingenuity was evident. There was no need for Alvito to do what he did, and the ouster was possibly the only decent decision by the referee.
In the shootouts, Barreto, Palash Karmakar, Mehtab, Sunil Chhetri and Lolendra Singh converted. For East Bengal, while Musah, Bijen Singh and Sur Kumar Singh converted, M. Suresh’s shot was too weak and was saved by a diving Dora. That sealed the day and the Shield for Bagan, and also gave the Man of the Match trophy to Dora.
MOHUN BAGAN: Prasanta Dora, Babun Kar, Deb Kumar Sasmal, Sanjeev Maria, Rishi Kapoor (Lolendra Singh, 46), Mehtab Hussein, L. manitombi Singh (Basudeb Mondal, 46; Sunil Chhetri, 117), Palash Karmakar, Rennedy Singh, Jose Ramirez Barreto, Marcos Parreira.
EAST BENGAL: Sangram Mukherjee, Sur Kumar Singh, Dipak Mondal (Sujoy Dutta, 97), M. Suresh, Subhasis Roy Chowdhury, Suley Musah, Sasthi Duley, Shylo Malsawmtluanga (Alvito D’Cunha, 103), Chandan Das, Dipankar Roy (Subhas Chakraborty, 57), Bijen Singh.
Referee: J. Ravi Shankar (Delhi).