27.11.05, Calcutta: It’s not known, but Amal Dutta must be cursing Biswajit Bhattacharya, the former Mohammedan Sporting coach, whose boys humiliated the red-and-golds 3-2 on Thursday.
Determined to prove a point or two ' to their critics, supporters and, of course, arch-rivals Mohun Bagan ' the new and improved East Bengal shook off their lethargy and inflicted one of the worst defeats in the Mohun Bagan coach’s career, the green-and-maroons going down 1-4 in an IFA Shield match at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Sunday.
It was 1997 revisited for the veteran Dutta, whose boys, notwithstanding a 20-minute burst towards the end of the match, looked thoroughly out of sorts, disoriented and were outplayed in all parts of the game. And it didn’t help that Subrata Pal at times gave the impression that he lacks basic goalkeeping skills.
In contrast, everything fell in place for Subhas Bhowmick. Under pressure for losing the last two clashes against the arch-rivals and without any silverware this season, Bhowmick can now breathe a little easy. The semi-final too doesn’t seem a distant dream now.
And if an impression had been generated that it’s not possible to win derbies without foreigners, then it was left to one Alvito D’Cunha to disprove it.
The East Bengal midfielder played an inspired game, netting two and setting another, with Chandan Das and Mike Okoro scoring one each. Akeem Abolanle was the lone scorer for Bagan.
The match, though, differed from the usual derby fare with the teams locked in the midfield to gain control. That it didn’t owe a lot to the quick goal and even quicker equaliser.
Eight minutes into the match, East Bengal earned a free-kick at least 30 yards off the post. Chandan Das ambled up and placed a neat right-footer that took one deflection and went past the hapless Pal into the second post to make it 1-0.
Five minutes later, Bagan’s Subhasis Roy Chowdhury, who otherwise had a forgettable game, managed to send an innocuous-looking pass through to Akeem, who collected it coolly inside the box, turned and placed it past the second post. It is debatable whether defenders Covan Lawrence and Arun Malhotra, who didn’t move an inch, were admiring Akeem’s skills.
Just when the game seemed to meander a bit, out came another brilliant free-kick by D’Cunha in the 28th minute. He floated the right-footer inside the box, which Okoro gleefully accepted and headed it home. Pal, who should have come out challenging, seemed rooted to the spot. It was not only a case of bad defending, worse, the way Okoro was allowed to meet the ball inside the six yards, must raise serious questions about Pal’s abilities.
If Bagan supporters thought Pal had already committed his worst blunder, as if to prove them wrong, in the 42nd minute, the goalkeeper did something which was unbelievable. Instead of throwing it to one of his teammates after goal-kick, he put the ball straight into Alvito’s path, who after the initial shock, placed a searing left-footer into the net to make it 3-1. Needless to say, no defenders were around.
If Dutta was already handicapped by Noel’s leaving the ground ' due to an injury ' in the 17th minute, he was desperate now. Jerry Zirsanga had replaced Harbinder just before the third goal, and Dutta was seriously handicapped.
After the lemon break, though, Bagan seemed to have gained some of their old form back. They started stitching passes and though their attacks were largely absorbed by the East Bengal defence, yet Gley Yao Rodrigue managed to send the red-and-gold hearts a flutter when his scorching right-footer hit the crossbar in the 52nd minute.
Bagan performance graph then took a downward spiral as East Bengal slowly throttled them.
The icing on East Bengal cake came in injury time when the spectators and the media were leaving their seats. Alvito sprinted through in a solo move and chased by Bagan defenders, went parallel to the goalline on the left flank. His left-footer took everyone, including the beleaguered Pal, by surprise as it entered the goal from a zero angle.
Blaming Pal squarely for the debacle against the arch-rivals, club secretary Anjan Mitra said he has been asked to reply within 15 days.
“Our contract (with the goalie) clearly mentions that Pal has to give his hundred per cent. Within the next 15 days, he must specify why he failed to do so. He has been asked not to join practice till the club decides otherwise. His performance today was shameful and has brought the club into disrepute,” Mitra said.
Mitra’s announcement came within hours of Dutta’s declaration (during the post-match media conference) that some of Pal’s actions during the match were “funny”.
The Mohun Bagan coach held the goalkeeper responsible for all but one goal conceded by the green-and-maroons and stopped short of levelling charges of “being bribed” at him.
“The way Pal committed school-boyish errors had to be seen to be believed”, Dutta said, adding: “Specifically, he had no business throwing the ball at an advancing Alvito. In any case, Alvito was coming through the middle, and he should have thrown the ball at the flanks.”
This was East Bengal’s day after all.
East Bengal: Naseem Akhtar; Sasthi Duley, Covan Lawrence, Arun Malhotra, M. Suresh, Soumik Dey, Bernard Pires (K. Kulothungan 89), Chandan Das, Alvito D’Cunha, Mike Okoro, Sydney Nkalanga (S. Malsawmtluanga 82).
Mohun Bagan: Subrata Pal, Sanjay Parte, A. Suliman Feroze, Sanjib Maria, Rajib Ahmed, Noel Wilson (Basudeb Mondal 17), Subhasis Roy Chowdhury, Dharamjit Singh, Harbinder Singh (Jerry Zirsanga 38), Gley Yao Rodrigue, Akeem Abolanle.
Referee: Subrata Sarkar.