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Friday, September 28, 2001

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Mohun Bagan struggles to hold FC Kochin

By Our Sports Reporter

KOLKATA, SEPT. 27. Mohun Bagan, squandering a penalty and numerous scoring opportunities, finally just managed to hold FC Kochin 1-1 in its final Group B pre-quarterfinal league encounter of the 107th IFA Shield football here at the Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday.

In a Group D match, held at the East Bengal ground, Tata Football Academy (TFA) put up an inspired performance to get the better of CSL Bhratri Sangha 2-1.

The draw ensured Mohun Bagan a place in the next stage of the tournament - the knockout quarterfinals. The final group league position, however, will become clear only after FC Kochin plays the other team in the group - local qualifier Ever Ready.

On the other hand, TFA almost assured itself a place in the last eight stage as Bhratri Sangha, faced with the almost improbable task of defeating the Brazilian team, Palmeiras-B, in the concluding league match, is almost out of the contest. Two teams from each group progress to the knockout stage.

Mohun Bagan, apparently influenced by a sense of complacency, made the big mistake of taking the opposition lightly. Coach Subrata Bhattacharya opted to rest the team's main strike force, Brazilian Jose Barreto, and tried out a new offensive line-up fielding the latest recruit Colly Barnes to do the striking.

The team began on a breezy note with the midfield - having arguably the best combination in the country with Basudev Mondal, James Singh and R.P. Singh on the roster - performing commendably. The attacks were frequent and both the flanks were used judiciously. While finding access into the opponent territory did not appear much of a task for the green-and-maroon brigade, the strikers - Barnes and Sereiki Abdulatief - repeatedly failed to put the finishing touch. The Mohun Bagan defence also was seen in poor light today. FC Kochin, strengthened by the inclusion of three foreign recruits in goalkeeper Best Bestman, midfielder Philip Karnaga and striker Josiah Seton, was quick to gauge the opponent's weakness. With Niaz Rehman pairing well with Karnaga in the middle, FC Kochin found it best to tackle the opponent with surprise counter- offensives. What seemed to be acting greatly in favour of the visitor was the presence of Seton in the attack.

Though the other forward V.P. Shaji was effectively neutralised, the opponent defence was thoroughly tormented by both Seton's frame and footwork. The visitor did not had to wait long to see its ploy working, as Rehman took the team ahead in the 15th minute. With the Bagan defence concentrating more on Seton, Rehman acted as the alternative striker and scored without much resistance when reached by a through pass from Karnaga.

Mohun Bagan earned a penalty in the 22nd minute when referee P. Bhasker from Tamil Nadu found Bestman's charge on Barnes, following a lob from midfield by Devjit Ghosh inside the box, illegitimate. James Singh could produce just a feeble push while taking the spot kick and the FC Kochin goalkeeper blocked it without much effort.

Having squandered the penalty and a few more opportunities, Mohun Bagan struggled to find the equaliser. And the Mohun Bagan coach played his final card fielding Barreto, in place of R.C. Prakash (who had replaced Barnes), in the 58th minute. Barreto struck in the 68th minute fetching the equaliser.

However, after the strike the Brazilian also seemed to be affected by the malady that plagued his colleagues as he missed three easy chances.

In the TFA-Bhratri Sangha match, Syed Rahim Nabi opened the scoring as early as in the sixth minute for the Jamshedpur academy. Bhratri Sangha, coached by Shabbir Ali, bounced back into contention as Palash Karmakar fetched the equaliser in the 17th minute.

TFA kept up the pressure and earned the lead again as its other forward Krishna Tudu struck in the 41st minute. TFA held onto the lead for the rest of the match successfully absorbing the little pressure Bhratri Sangha could manage in the second session.

In the two pre-quarterfinal matches scheduled for Friday, Kingfisher East Bengal takes on Mohammedan Sporting in a Group A encounter at Salt Lake Stadium, while Muktijoddha Sanshad meets Indian under-19 team in a Group C match at the Mohun Bagan ground.

Goa is champion

MAPUSA (GOA), SEPT. 27. Goa goalkeeper Concy Vaz came to her team's rescue blocking two spot kicks in the penalty shootout to help the host defeat a fighting Manipur 4-2 via tie-breaker and emerge champion in the first junior girls' National football tournament here today.

The penalty shootout was needed to break the deadlock after the teams failed to score in regulation as well as extra time.

Goa's Lata Naik, Blanca Barretto, Maymol Rocky and Sharon Fernandes converted for the winner, while only Rebika Devi and Ibeyaima Devi were on target for Manipur.

The Goa goalkeeper, Concy Vaz, deserves special mention for her scintillating performance under the bar. During the regulation time, she thwarted the rampaging Manipur strikers with unbelievable saves. In the tie-breaker, too, she saved two spot kicks taken by Geetarani Devi and Sandhyarani Devi.


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