| Ashim Biswas is congratulated by Hardeep Gill (left) and Leonardo de Almeida at the Salt Lake Stadium on Monday. Pictures by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta: Ashim Biswas’ first hattrick in the National Football League spurred Mohun Bagan to an easy 3-0 victory over Indian Bank at the Salt Lake Stadium on Monday. The visitors’ resistance was so feeble that it would not have come as a surprise had the hosts managed a bigger margin. More importantly, the team’s collective approach put to the shade the absence of Jose Ramirez Barreto.
Bagan wasted another couple of gilt-edged opportunities, besides a goalline save by an Indian Bank defender in the very second minute of the match. The bankmen also had their moments briefly, when Prasanta Dora brilliantly saved Prahlad Rawat and Sabir Pasha shots.
The Calcutta giants now have seven points from four matches while the Chennai side is yet to open its account in as many games.
“We needed three points from this match and got it. The tie versus Vasco (later this week) is more important and full points from that game will put us in good stead,” said coach Aloke Mukherjee after the game.
Ashim conceded it was a “bit of a relief” to be back among goals and said he was hoping to improve on his 11 goals scored in the NFL last year.
Mohun Bagan started in a whirlwind fashion, rocking the rival defence with a flurry of attacks from the outset. Aloke later said it was their ploy to “score within the first ten minutes”.
Ashim opened the scoreline in the fifth minute, a Mehtab Hossain back volley being headed in the nick of time to the left of the goalkeeper (1-0). There was no let up as Bagan took advantage of a weak bank defence. With no blocking or snatching in the midfield, the forwards would find themselves in the rival penalty box in a jiffy.
Ashim later said that the first strike was the most “memorable”. The second goal came in the 21st minute. Ashim was at hand to net home an Eduardo Rebeiro flick following a corner after Mehtab foxed the defence through a dummy effort.
Brazilian Eduardo was slightly erratic but showed promise of maturing into a good striker. As Ashim conceded later Eduardo provided him good support upfront.
Leonardo Monorat de Almeida, the other Brazilian, was very hardworking in the midfield. He showed a good sense of distribution and the ability to take responsibility.
The third goal came eight minutes after halftime. It was a result of shoddy goalkeeping from Felix Edward, who let in a timid low shot, and did ‘shock’ Ashim. The celebrations were muted on completion of the hattrick and it was hard to fathom if the landmark was really achieved.
Towards the close, Mehtab shot wide from close and Ashim failed to nod in from handshaking distance.
Bagan will have to miss Debkumar Shasmal for sometime after the defender fractured his elbow in a collision in the first half. It will mean more worries for the Bagan defence.
MOHUN BAGAN: Prasanta Dora (Imran Khan, 77 min), Babun Kar, Debkumar Sashmal (Palash Karmakar, 40), Harpreet Singh, Rishi Kapoor, Mehtab Hossain, Leonardo de Almeida, Hardeep Gill, Rennedy Singh (Hardeep Saini, 70), Eduardo Rebeiro, Ashim Biswas.
INDIAN BANK: Felix Edward, Anandavasan, Sudhakar, Antony Noel, Villy, Amjad Hussain, Sudheesh (Amulraj, 82), Mahendra Mani, Prahlad Rawat (Hamilton Bobby, 55), Joseph (Mohamed Bin Hassan, 60), Sabir Pasha.
Referee: P.K. Bose (MP).