The Kolkata Derby:
“Ridiculous” – that’s the exact word East Bengal’s coach Trevor Morgan used to describe the level of officiating in the high profile Kolkata Derby. His Mohun Bagan counterpart, Subhash Bhowmick, went a step further and condemned the referee to be “incompetent”. The match official Pratap Singh, whose name seems to be a misnomer for the timid on-field characteristics displayed by him, resorted to dish-out non-existing yellow cards at an alarming frequency in a bid to curb the high flying tamper. As many as 8 Mohun Bagan and 4 East Bengal players found their names on the referee’s book by the end of 90 minutes regulation time plus 17 minutes added time. If that was not enough, one player each from both the sides received marching orders to keep the dreadful tradition of Kolkata Derby intact. It’s hardly surprising to see the tsunami of accusations directed towards Mr. Pratap Singh from both the camps.
Having an amazing atmosphere, the 90 thousand capacity Salt Lake greeted the players when the teams marched on to the ground. Crackers in the background, drum beats in the stands – while one part of the gallery resembled a Red-&-Gold sea, the other part was looking like a Green-&-Maroon sky. The game started with a high tempo and it was a top quality affair for the entire first half. Bagan got the first opportunity of the match when Surkumar unleashed a thunderous strike only to be denied by an acrobatic Sandip Nandy, who pulled off a magnificent save diving full length to his right in the 5th minute of the match. East Bengal took the lead in the 8th minute; a goal-bound ball was handled by Surkumar Singh inside the box and Sanju Pradhan converted the resulting spot kick and the Red-&-Gold supporter went berserk in celebration.
It required a Jose Barreto magic to restore parity in the match. A measured cross sent by Surkumar Singh was flicked on to the back of the net with a perfect header by the veteran Brazilian around the half-an-hour mark and the Mohun Bagan supporters erupted in joy. East Bengal kept the pressure up and Tolgay could have put East Bengal up, but Shilton pulled off a top-drawer save to keep his side in the hunt before the lemon break.
The second half started and soon it turned in to a wrestling arena. From the very onset of the match, Mohun Bagan players had targeted East Bengal playmaker Mehtab Hussain and tried to unsettle him with rugby-like challenges. It started with Manish Mathani tackling Mehtab from behind in the 20th minute to receive a deserved yellow. After the break, Rakesh Masih came up with similar challenge, again on Mehtab, and he too got booked. From the resulting free kick Mehtab floated the ball towards Sushanth Mathew, who in-turn provided Tolgay with a golden opportunity, however, Shilton came to Bagan’s rescue again.
Deepak Mondal of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal’s Uga Okpara received yellow cards in quick succession as both sets of players indulged in a physical approach. East Bengal got another opportunity in the meanwhile, but Sanju fired it over and wide. Then in a moment of madness, Gurwinder Singh, already on one yellow, got in to a tangle with Barreto and received marching orders and East Bengal had to manage with one man short for the remaining 20 minutes. Barreto escaped being sent off even after using his boot to snatch the ball from East Bengal goalie Sandip Nandy’s hands. The East Bengal players furiously appealed to the referee for punishing the Brazilian, who was already on a yellow card at that time.
Even with a man down, it was East Bengal who created most of the opportunities for the remaining duration. Sushil Kumar Singh missed the easiest chance of the match when he fired wide from Tolgay’s pass with an open net to aim at. Ishfaq Ahmed was shown yellow card for a foul on Naoba while it was Jayanta Sen’s turn this time to try and injure Mehtab with a clumsy tackle – which resulted in another booking. Last few minutes saw desperate attempt from Red-&-Golds to score one more, but Shilton proved to be a tough nut to crack as he pulled off one save after another to keep his side in the game single-handedly. Asim Biswas tackled Mehtab from behind and then deliberately stampped on his face to get marching orders with in a couple of minute of his introduction.
In the end it was 1 goal – 1 point – 1 send off each for both the teams as the referee blew the final whistle. Tolgay Ozbey was awarded the man of the match award, but any neutral would feel that injustice had been done to Shilton Pal – who had a brilliant outing under the Bagan woodwork. East Bengal continued their unbeaten run and with 31 points, they are 3 points clear of second placed Salgaocar at the end of first half of the season. Mohun Bagan remain at the 6th spot, 12 points adrift the table toppers.
Other Round-13 Matches
Air India continued their impressive form to hold on Karim Bencharifa’s Salgaocar to a 1-1 draw at Kohlapur. Yusif Yakubu gave the visiting team a well deserved lead in the first half injury time, before Okorogor Praise equalized in the 77th minute. With this draw, Air India managed to stay clear of the drop zone being 2 points clear of Viva Kerala. Viva Kerala suffered another defeat in round-13 as they went down 0-2 against a resurgent Dempo side. After a barren first half, Beto and Ranty Martins struck for Dempo in quick succession to dump the Kerala outfit on their home soil. With 22 points at the end of first half of the league campaign, Dempo climed to 4th spot in the overall standings. Viva Kerala remains in the relegation zone.
Mumbai FC, the surprise package of the season, were robbed off a well deserved victory when a late strike by Amandeep Singh helped JCT FC to draw the game in Kohlapur. An Ebi Sukore strike had earned the Mumbai based team an early advantage, but at the stroke of the regulation time, Amandeep Singh brought his side on level terms. Mumbai FC have accumulated 21 points from their 13 matches and are placed at a respectable 5th spot. With 13 points from same number of matches, JCT shares the 10th spot with Indian Arrows.
Indian Arrows suffered their 6th loss of the season against Pune FC as Dereick Pereira’s men steamrolled the young Indians 3-0 at the Balewadi Sports complex in a match played under flood-lights. It was third time lucky for HAL SC as they snatched all three points from fellow strugglers ONGC FC in a bottom of the table clash played in Bangalore. This was the third home game for HAL, who tasted their first victory on their home soil after getting outclassed against Goan giants Salgaocar and Dempo.
The Most Entertaining Match of The Week:
The most entertaining match of the round was played between Chirag United and Churchill Brothers at YBK on Saturday. Churchill took an early lead when Kayne Vincent slotted home a Steven Dias cross in the 13th minute. Chirag responded immediately with Elijah Junior in the 18th minute. Steven Dias restored Churchill’s lead with a cool finish in the 30th minute. Churchill doubled their lead just after the half time break as Boima Karpeh took advantage of Chirag goalkeeper Somnath Khara’s sloppy gripping to put the ball over goal-line on the reboud.
Chirag staged a spirited fight back as Tulunga and Junior scored in quick succession to make it 3-3 with around 25 minutes to go for the final whistle. However Churchill took the lead for the third time in the 70th minute as Amuri scored a delightful goal from a Mohammed Rafi’s defense-splitting delivery. It was once again the same Rafi-Amuri-Vincent combo who put the game to bed when Vincent struck the 5th goal in Chirag’s coffin in the 80th minute. With this win, Churchill consolidates their 3rd spot with 26 points, just 2 points off the pace from second placed Salgaocar and a further 3 points away from League leader East Bengal. Chirag dropped to the 8th position with 18 points in their kitty.
Star of The Week: Kayne Vincent (Churchill Brothers)
The New Zealand striker, who scored a brilliant brace against East Bengal in the last match, found himself in the thick of the action once again at the Yuvabharati turf. He scored the opener for Churchill before winning the game for his team by striking the fifth and final goal in Chirag’s coffin. His link-up play with Amuri and Steven Dias was a treat to the eyes and if he continues in similar fashion, Odafa Okolie will have tough competition in the race for the Golden Boot.
Villain of The Week: Pratap Singh
It was a perfect example to demonstrate how one man, with a whistle between his lip and cards in his pocket, is more than enough to kill an exciting football match. Clearly the Uttarakhand official did not have it in him to officiate in a high profile Kolkata derby. He let the game to slip away from his grip by remaining a spectator when he should have acted strictly, and dishing out cards when he should not have. He failed to protect ball players like Mehtab Hussain who was time and again targetted by Bagan defenders with rough challenges. He failed to give Barreto the marching orders when the veteran striker lost his cool and tried to snatch the ball using his boots from Sandip Nandy’s hand when the goalie had already collected the ball. The managers, players, officials and the fans all were left disgusted by the standard of refereeing and the demand to get foreign officials to conduct high profile matches got boosted by his failure to curb the high flying temper.
Goal of The Week: Edmar Figuera (Pune FC)
Edmar Figuera, who has had a rather indifferent season so far, sparkled under the lights at the Balewadi. In a brilliant individual move, the striker dodged past 2 Indian Arrows players inside-out to move to the right corner of the box; the Arrows goalkeeper Jagroop Singh committed himself forward but Edmar deceived him with a cute little chip over his head which landed just outside the goal-line, before rolling in.
Save of The Week: Sandip Nandy (East Bengal)
Mohun Bagan got the first real scoring opportunity of the match in the 5th minute when Surkumar, on a brilliant overlapping run from the right full back position, cut inside and unleashed a right footed scorcher which seemed destined for the top left corner. However, a divine intervention from East Bengal’s veteran custodian Sandip Nandy saw the ball being plucked away from the goal mouth. Sandip pulled off that magnificent single handed save by acrobatically diving to his right and tipping the ball over the bar with the help of outstretched fingertips.
Miss of The Week: Sushil Kumar Singh (East Bengal)
Trevor James Morgan was forced to start with Sushil upfront along with Tolgay, as Robin Singh was out suspended for this all important Kolkata Derby. He failed to repay his coach’s trust in him as he missed not one, but two great opportunities to put his team ahead in this high profile contest. In the first half, he failed to control the ball cleanly when Mehtab Hussain presented him with an absolute gift. The second miss was no less than a crime. In the 72nd minute of the match, Tolgay sent him a defense piercing ball through the middle of the pitch. Sushil, even though was completely unmarked, blasted the ball over the woodwork to round off a frustrating day at office. That was also his last touch of the match as Mr. Morgan decided that he had enough of him on the field.
The Race For The Golden Boot Award:
Odafa Okolie (Churchill Brothers): 15
Ryuji Sueoka (Salgaocar): 12
Tolgay Ozbay (East Bengal): 9
Kayne Vincent (Churchill Brothers) : 8
Ebi Sukore (Mumbai FC): 7
Junior Elijah (Chirag United): 7
Ranty Martins (Dempo SC): 7
Even after missing his 6th game on trot, Odafa Okolie still leads the scoring chart with 15 goals to his name. Second and third placed Sueoka and Tolgay failed to add to their tally, but Kayne Vincent continued his hot pursuit of Odafa and notched up another brace to move to the 4th spot with 8 goals. Ranty Martins and Ebi Sukore scored one each and share the 5th spot with Chirag’s Junior Elijah – who bagged a brilliant brace against Churchill in this round.
TheHardTackle’s Team of The Week: