Bagan wins Federation Cup

CHENNAI, AUG 30. The glittering Federation Cup will once again remain with the glamour team McDowell Mohun Bagan of Kolkata. The 2-0 win it chalked out against underdogs Dempo SC Goa in the 24th edition at the floodlit Nehru stadium on Thursday was an emphatic verdict on which was the champion club of India.

Allow the wily Brazilian Ramires Barreto freedom and woe betide the opposition. Such is his opportunism that all he needed was a suggestion of a chance and the man pounced on it like a predator would for a kill. The end act is invariably a sight of joy to behold. Barreto produced just that magic to send Dempo on a spin and even though the Goans fought all its worth, luck kept deserting it at every vital moment.

In the end the team that had dreamt of a making it big had to go through another nightmare by name Abdul Lateef Seriki. The Nigerian, whom Dempo Coach Armando Colaco felt did not need much policing, shifted flanks and found the space and the ball to blast to the roof. Soaring Dempo hopes went into oblivion with that. For all his hard running and relentless tries, Seriki was adjudged the `man of the final'.

Despite victory, Bagan Coach, Subrata Bhattacharjee was unhappy. ``We could have played better. It was difficult situation,'' he said while Armando was satisfied that ``my boys played creditably. We missed chances and that made all the difference. But it was a good match,'' he added.

In effect, the two foreigners made all the difference in a match where the exchanges otherwise seemed to even out tantalisingly. It is debatable if this was the easiest win for Bagan but there is no question with 11 titles in 14 visits to the final, this Kolkata club has set up an amazing record in this premier club tourney. The team started overwhelming favourites and fulfilled the expectations. But then if only Dempo had not messed up with all those chances! On that lay the consolation for this brave team, which finished second best for the Rs.6 lakh prize money. Bagan pocketed Rs.10 lakh.

For once fans came in bigger numbers. It was not a houseful but sizeable to raise the ambience associated with a big setting. Sounds of drum and pipes rose but not many would have welcomed the way fire-crackers were let out indiscriminately, once the burning object sinking onto the turf, luckily when the players had gone out for breather.

On to the action and as was expected Dempo, the team that had little to lose but lot to gain, raised the first ripple. Levy's runs and Clifford Miranda's overlapping efforts raised promise. Mario Soares and Jose Colaso quickly adapted to their midfield tasks. Bagan bided time but not for long. A startlingly poor defence clearance, Samir Naik actually backheading, brought James into the Dempo box. Barreto came charging and despite a crowded goal area to angle a right footer at the descending high ball and in a flash the ball had beaten Francis Fernandes to his right (14th mt).

Having had his fill, Barreto fell back and then began Dempo's resurgence or series of misses, a few of them clear sitters. First it was Levy's clever relay off a Mario flag kick that for a moment caught goalkeeper Bivas Ghosh unprepared. The ball actually slipped out of his grasp but Arwade could only remain a spectator.

Then it was Clifford's cross which defender Jayanta Sen in trying to clear, was aghast to see the ball deflect and move goalwards to shake Bivash again. Dempo clearly exposed Bagan end and none showed the discomfiture more than Bivash who for all his cosy time till date, was the most harried man. Jayanta was immediately removed.

The Goans did not slacken after breather and had to go through another agony - experienced Stanley Colaso fumbling with a juicy Soares floater from a free kick. Stanley booted over from almost handshaking distance. Minutes later Nigerian Shamaki made everyone sit up with his cross that saw Levy a little unbalanced but still nodding the ball to Soares to strike but a feeble push was what followed. Bivash again thanking his stars. Amazing for a final to witness such flaws but that essentially was the difference between a well equipped side and a passable outfit.

The induction of Sumit Ganguly steadied Bagan defence and with Barreto once again regaining hunger, Dempo needed numbers in the defence. Play suddenly took a corrosive edge and a flurry of yellow cards followed, four of them on Bagan side and one for Dempo. But it was Dempo citadel that fell and what a goal it was by Seriki as he picked a James' square pass and in one running motion targeted the roof (79th mt). The contest virtually ended there.

Mr Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, AIFF President, presided over the final day proceedings. Aside from the trophies, Barreto was declared the `Best Player of the Tournament' while JCT was adjudged the `Fair Play Trophy winner'.

The teams:

Mohun Bagan: Bivas Ghosh; Dulal Biswas, Amauri da Silva, Debjit Ghosh, Lolendra Singh; James Singh, Basudeb Mondal (Sumit Sengupta), Jayanta Sen (Amar Ganguly), Ramires Barreto; R. C. Prakash (Ajay Singh), Abdul Lateef Seriki.

Dempo: Francis Fernandes; Vincent Colaso, Stanley Colaso, Felip Gomes, Samir Naik; Clifford Miranda, Jose Colaso (Minguel Rodrigues), Mario Soares, Alesh Samaki (Lazarus Fernandes); Levy Coelho, Sukdev Arwade.

Referee: S. Suresh (TN). Assistant referees: K. Shankar (TN), M. K. Roy (Assam).