With amaciated balloons climbing into the night sky and on a turf left worse for the wear by the rain and repeated practice sessions, the second I-League kicked off its Kolkata chapter. The All India Football Federation should thank East Bengal’s brisk start for saving this Friday evening show from being box office dud.
That Yusif Yakubu would play behind Edmilson Marques and Sunil Chhetri was East Bengal’s worst kept secret. Yet, by the time United SC figured that out, they were a goal down that too after left-back Dhanarajan had effected a goalline save from East Bengal’s first corner-kick.
Then, he had managed to push Yakubu’s prompt out. Six minutes later, when Surkumar Singh punted down the right and unleashed one of his trademark right-footers, neither Dhanarajan nor goalkeeper Arindam Ghosh had any chance. The way it cannoned in was reminiscent of Surkumar’s blasts in the last Federation Cup. The power was as much though this was from closer range.
Known for early substitutions especially when playing catch-up, Subroto Bhattacharya supplanted an ineffective Sasthi Duley with Subhasish Roy Chowdhury. If the idea was to keep a check on Yakubu, it backfired spectacularly. Making the most of the delay in closing him down, the Ghanaian played Renedy Singh forward and left alone in the area, comfortably headed home the insurance goal.
A brace up by the 19th minute had overreached Rozario’s hopes of a good start. That too against a team, which had shocked East Bengal out of the local league three weeks ago.
Following a blemish by Arnab Mondal in inner defence, Sunil Chhetri got a ball from Edmilson Marques he wouldn’t otherwise have and with Arindam stranded without protection, it meant an early end to the possibilities of this match being a contest.
Between the goals, Mehrajuddin Wadoo tried a back-header, Chhetri blasted over in the manner that wouldn’t do justice to his growing profile. Absorbing the battering and trying a comeback while not being impossible certainly was beyond the maroon shirts debuting in the league.
Possibly because their skipper — the I-League’s only U-19 player to wear the armband — Lalmalswama Hmar couldn’t come close to imposing himself in the way he did when the teams last met.
Injury followed an early attempt that wasn’t a patch on the missile he had fired against East Bengal then leading to Hardeep Singh being introduced.
With East Bengal going off the boil — and the terraces beginning to empty around the hour-mark — United SC played better after the breather. Rozario’s good evening though could have been somewhat spoilt by the sight of Ayan Choudhury leaving Suley Musah flailing and defensive blemishes in the last 10 minutes.
And United SC, despite Shankar Oroan’s super left-foot strike, would go home thinking how despite being backed by a computer company so many bugs showed up in the midfield and defence.