24.4.2010, Calcutta: East Bengal coach Phillippe de Ridder could not stop smiling after the Calcutta Football League (CFL) derby against Mohun Bagan, here, on Saturday.
Probably, he was more than happy with the goalless draw his boys — they played with a man short after Harmonjyot Singh Khabra was shown the red card in the 74th minute — eked out to make his case for a contract renewal a little stronger. Probably, he never thought his boys would play like the way they did!
Isn’t it funny that a coach was happy with a point only? More so because this match was there for East Bengal’s taking. In fact, they could have clinched the issue in the first half itself and should curse themselves for letting Mohun Bagan off the hook. Three points were there on a platter and De Ridder was happy with a point!
Saturday’s result meant, Bagan now have 33 points from 13 matches while East Bengal have 27 from 14.
East Bengal took their archrivals by surprise by not giving Bhaichung Bhutia a start. They started with Abel Hammond as the lone striker and the five-man midfield didn’t give even an inch to Bagan. Sanju Pradhan revelled playing just behind Hammond and Mehtab Hossain kept Micky Fernandes in his pocket.
Bagan’s Ryuoji Sueoka was also not allowed to make much noise by Beokhokhei Singh. And captain Syed Rahim Nabi was making those dangerous blindside runs from the left. In a nutshell, the red and gold brigade were all over Bagan and the goal should have come any moment.
Sanju, the eventual Man of the Match, was scorching the flanks and made look Biswajit Saha silly. His deliveries created havoc in the Bagan defence but Hammond was at his benevolent best.
After taking Saha in his stride, he hit one across the goal; then failed to direct a free header; was denied once by Sk Azim’s timely intervention even as Shilton Paul was hopelessly out of position and then could not bend one from an acute angle.
The Ghanaian seemed to have left his goal scoring boots back home. Had Bhutia got a start, his presence might have given East Bengal some impetus up front.
The East Bengal defence was also brilliant on the day. They did not give the likes of Jose Ramirez Barreto and Edeh Chidi any room and with the Bagan midfield more or less non-existent the striking duo were doing some mindless running and useless jostling.
Mehrajuddin Wadoo was playing like a man possessed and Uga Okpara was too solid for Bagan’s liking. Even Khabra, playing as a right back, was very impressive till that blemish in the 74th minute when he unnecessarily lunged onto Snehashish Chakraborty and saw the red card.
Such was the Bagan predicament that they had to bring in Souvik Chakraborty in place of Subhojit Mazumdar in the 32nd minuite.
Even then things hardly improved. East Bengal’s domination can be gauged by two simple facts. Goalkeeper Gurpreeet Singh Sandhu had a feel of the ball for the first time in the 37th minute and Bagan’s first real chance was created in the 78th minute! Yes! Bagan were that bad on the day.
East Bengal started losing the momentum once Bhutia was introduced in place of Saikat Saha Roy in the second half. Hammond dropped back as a right half and Bhutia failed to make the impact in the single striker’s role.
During his previous stint as East Bengal coach De Ridder did use Bhutia as a single striker. But that was some four years ago. Now it will be foolish to expect from Bhutia the pace one needs to play as the lone man upfront.
Bagan defence started to breathe easy and with Barreto playing a bit deeper to thwart Mehtab’s distribution skills from the midfield, East Bengal did not look the same as they were before the change of ends. Still they could have got one in the 55th minute when an under-pressure Deepak Mondal made a mess of a clearance and Hammond had only Shilton to beat. Bhutia was unmarked on the left but Hammond, in all the excitement of scoring in the Derby, went alone and, as expected, his attempt was too weak.
In the dying minutes Bagan did enforce a couple of saves from Gurpreet when a Surkumar volley and Sueoka’s header were fisted away.
But by then, De Ridder’s face was glowing.
Known to be a man who always sees the brighter side, the Belgian was happy with a point.
East Bengal: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu; Harmanjot Khabra, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Uga Okpara, Saumik Dey; Saikat Saha Roy (Bhaichung Bhutia 48), Mehtab Hossain, B. Beikhokhei, Sanju Pradhan, Syed Rahim Nabi; Saumik Dey; Saikat Saha Roy (Bhaichung Bhutia 48), Mehtab Hossain, B. Beikhokhei, Sanju Pradhan, Syed Rahim Nabi; Abel Hammond.
Mohun Bagan: Shilton Paul; Surkumar Singh, Sheikh Azim, Deepak Mondal, Biswajit Saha; Subhojit Mazumder (Souvik Chakraborty 32), Micky Fernandes (Rakesh Masih 70), Sueoka Ryuji, Snehasish Chakraborty (Ishfaq Ahmed 90+3); Jose Barreto, Edeh Chidi.
Referee: Minangshu Bhattacharya
Man of the Match: Sanju Pradhan
Source : http://www.telegraphindia.com/1100425/jsp/sports/story_12378443.jsp