10 July 2000, Calcutta: A comedy of errors crowned the concluding edition of the McDowell Cup as East Bengal committed less of them to edge Mohun Bagan 1-0 in today’s final at Salt Lake Stadium.
The tale of blunders started in the first minute — when East Bengal squandered one of the few chances they eventually created — and left the 40,000 spectators bemused, with the Mohun Bagan defence producing what was perhaps its worst performance in recent ‘big’ matches.
As if to reciprocate all the false moves and inaccurate passes, referee Supriya Bhattacharjee had a rather forgettable day in office and must have thanked his stars for not letting things veer out of control.
Anit Ghosh got the goal at the stroke of half time with some significant help from the rival defenders. The green-and-maroon men were mere spectators when Dipendu Biswas tried to break into the box with Srikanta Dutta for company.
They failed, without being challenged, and Anit picked up the ball just outside the box and everybody assumed the ball would be relayed back to Dipendu. Instead, Anit cracked a low left-footer which whistled past goalkeeper Bivash Ghosh. The shot was powerful but the goalkeeper didn’t even dive.
Srikanta was a central character in the tale of misdeeds and two of his adventures stood out for complete lack of common-sense. The striker picked up a rare clever through from Carlton Chapman in the 64th minute and had just the ’keeper to beat from about ten yards but his feeble left-footer crawled into the lap of Bivash.
His selfish approach cost East Bengal a goal seven minutes later when he refused to pass the ball to Dipendu only to be dispossessed.
The Mohun Bagan defenders looked insipid and though there was not much pressure let in several balls despite maintaining numerical superiority in the defensive zone.
Stopper-backs Shib Shankar Santra and M. Suresh formed a clumsy pair and striker Joao Dos Santos was seen clearing the ball from where left-back would normally stand even in the dying stages.
Their mid-field play was non-existent and there was absolutely no supply for Santos and Jose Ramirez Barreto. James Singh and R.C. Prakash were hardly visible and defensive medios Debjit Ghosh and Dulal Biswas, especially the former, lost possession whenever a move was brewing.
They were ably complemented by the East Bengal mid-fielders who played a slew of wrong passes and looked desperate to defend the lead right after the interval.
The supervision was nightmarish with East Bengal’s Jackson Egygopong getting away with several rough tackles after being booked and Srikanta was shown just a yellow card for an unnecessary, off-the-ball push on Bivash.
The height of it was witnessed midway into the second half when Dipendu fell near the centre circle. He stayed like that for some time as the ball travelled to distant corners of the turf with the referee, amazingly, positioned near the injured player. He could have either ignored the player and stayed near the ball or stopped play to pay attention to the extent of the injury but did neither.
Dipendu’s individual brilliance and initiative and the tussle between Dipak Mondal and Barreto were the only gains from the lacklustre show and the defender impressed all with his water-tight marking. Barreto was never allowed to turn or dribble and saw teammates losing possession on the couple of occasions he managed to do so.
Mohun Bagan coach Subrata Bhattacharya blamed the referee and his defenders for today’s McDowell Cup final defeat against East Bengal.
At the centre of the coach’s ire was the official. But he was not as harsh on his defenders. “Yes, our defenders played below expectations but we kept East Bengal under pressure.”
He said his team was denied a penalty and numerous fouls on his Brazilian forwards Joao Dos Santos and Jose Ramirez Barreto were overlooked.
East Bengal coach Syed Nayeemuddin said he was happy with the performance because it won them the trophy. Otherwise, he added with a grin, he would give the team 15 out of 100!