Mumbai FC, the punching bag of this year’s I-League, held out to a 2-1 victory against fancied Mohun Bagan. The ominous signs were there for all to see when just over an hour before the match captain and No. 1 goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee slipped and fell in the Barasat Stadium bathroom, getting himself badly injured and ruling himself out of the match. The match itself was probably killed in the 1st minute when stand-in keeper Shilton Paul was caught off the line by an innocent header from Abhishek Yadav from a Subhas Chakrabarty centre. It was a soft goal by any standards, one which could have floored the morale of any team.
However, resilient that Bagan is, they took it in their stride and mounted pressure on the opposition, looking for the equaliser. However, the dismal display continued at the other end. Ishfaq Ahmed, the poor confused soul who sometimes doesn’t seem to know why he is around, was today fielded as the support striker to Edeh Chiddi. Perhaps someone forgot to tell him that and most of the times he was completely out of position and the only time he was on the spot, he cleared a ball he was supposed to score from, and that too from within the six yard box and with only a hapless goalie to beat. James’ superb cross was thus made redundant.
After playing most of the first half in their opponents’ half, albeit somewhat haplessly, a sudden counter attack saw the inevitable “shall I punch – shall I collect – shall I fist?” show from Shilton Paul who ran out, collided with his own defender (Mandi) and spilled the ball with the same result that came on 7th August 2007 and Bagan was suddenly trailing by a brace.
The change of ends saw the induction of Branco in place of the rudderless Ishfaq. The wings started moving and the opposition skeletons were tumbling out of their goal, only our ball wasn’t going in. A few chances went out which however cruelly, pointed to the fact that it wasn’t to be our day.
A few times, shots were taken by Manish and Surkumar, but apparently no one told them that one doesn’t take a grounder at goal from 18 yards out with 20 players inside the box. Our midfield had them in their grip, only our strikers were not able to free themselves from their markers. Shilton had no further mishaps, however it has to be said here that he had to gather the ball only once in this half. It was all one way traffic. The position sense of Chiddi also has to be questioned, quite a few times, he was found behind his marker when the crosses were floated in, one can’t really expect to get the ball by remaining behind the marker in an aerial ball.
Branco made his mark when with a deft touch he eluded his marker and unleashed a blinder from a difficult angle. His splendid shot was parried by the Mumbai keeper, only to drop in front of Snehasish, who somehow bundled it home. (1-2).
Mumbai FC hung on by the skin of their teeth to take home full 3 points, where they deserved none. The only notable performer in their team was Subhas Charabarty. Towards the end of the match, Snehasish had a minor foot injury and was replaced by Kuluthungan, another confused individual. He missed one golden opportunity when he shot wide; on another occasion he had only the goalie to beat at the death and he squared it to the onrushing Chiddi. Chiddi did come up with a superb shot when for once he freed himself of his marker, but his wonderful effort hit the bottom of the post and spun out.
On hindsight it was perhaps Shilton’s mistakes that cost Mohun Bagan the match, though one shouldn’t forget all those missed chances. One does not want to be too harsh to this obviously talented youngster, but one has to remember that the Bagan jersey does not come free and wearing it in itself is an honour that has to be upheld each and every time a player walks on to the field. Perhaps it is time to give Chirodeep Chatterjee or Proloy Dutta some opportunities to prove their mettle while giving Shilton a rest to recuperate and reflect and recover his confidence.
All in all, it was a bad day in office for the whole squad, including the coach. We sincerely hope they learn from their mistakes and come back stronger in the forthcoming matches.
Mumbai F. C.:Nidhinlal, Anas, Evans, Bernerd, Basiru (Alex), Noel, Abhishek, Subhash (Nishat Mehra), Daren, Kamaljeet, Prem Kumar.
Mohun Bagan:Shilton, Surkumar, Deepak, Mandi (Tomba), Mohanraj, James, Manish, Marcos, Snehashis (Kulothungan), Isfaq (Branco), Chiddi.