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Of porous defences and Barreto’s brilliance

In terms of gaffes, Mohammedan Sporting were ahead at half-time but it wouldn't have mattered had Jose Barreto not brilliantly cancelled Goutam Thakur's strike, reports Dhiman Sarkar.

sports Updated: Oct 20, 2008 00:12 IST
Dhiman Sarkar

Given the crazy exchange of attacks, you would have thought the defenders hadn't returned from their Puja holidays. In terms of gaffes, Mohammedan Sporting were ahead at half-time but it wouldn't have mattered had Jose Barreto not brilliantly cancelled Goutam Thakur's strike.

It took two minutes for Mohun Bagan to forget coach Karim Bencherifa's exhorting them to ensure they don't have to "run after the match." Peter Odafe's hesitation in closing down Theodore Wrobeh was all the invitation he needed to make something of a Mike Okoro offering from behind.

As Odafe tailed Wrobeh into the area, out came Shilton Paul but forget collecting the ball, the Mohun Bagan goalie couldn't even get his hand to it. With Paul blocking Wrobeh from getting a look on goal, the crafty striker laid it back for Thakur who shot home. That wasn't the only gift Mohammedan Sporting got in the first half. In the 31st minute, Wrobeh headed over from inside the six-yard box after Okoro's lob was headed down by Sovan Chakrabarty.

It wasn't surprising that Mohammedan Sporting couldn't protect their lead beyond 22 minutes. Fortunately for the 10,000-odd that devoted their Sunday evening to this fourth round I-League clash will perhaps remember it not for Anit Ghosh being out of position to intercept Shylo Malsawmtluanga's hook-back but for what happened next. Given that Barreto had fluffed two free headers and wasted the good work by Ishfaq Ahmed and S. James Singh on the left in the first minute, Mohammedan Sporting fans may have assumed that this too shall pass. But Barreto, unmarked on the top of the area, first flicked the ball and then sent a rasping side-volley that swung into the back of the net. The misses kept cancelling each other out but occasionally the goalkeeper too were called into action. Though Shilton was repeatedly guilty of leaving his line and gripping air -— maybe because Thakur couldn't believe his luck, he headed over an empty goal in the 69th minute — he dived to stop a Wrobeh grounder. One minute later, he thwarted Okoro, this time rushing out at the right time. Before all this, the hardworking Adebayo Adewusi was unlucky that his header narrowly missed the far post.

The stalemate was a fair verdict even if in the hunt for goals, Mohun Bagan were more aggressive. As Mohammedan Sporting sat back looking to hit on the break, Mohun Bagan, with Masih, Lalkamal Bhowmick, Ishfaq, Barreto, James and Malsawmtluanga led a frontal assault in their bid for a first win over Mohammedan Sporting this season.

Churchill end Sporting's winning streak (PTI adds from Margao): Odafe Okolie struck once in each half to end Sporting Clube De Goa's winning streak as Churchill Brothers scored an emphatic 3-0 victory at the Nehru Stadium. Besides Odafe, Thokchom Naoba Singh found the target in the 68th minute for Churchill, who led 1-0 at half time.