Monday, Sep 29, 2003
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By Our Sports Reporter
The triumph thus ended a prolonged drought of title that saw the three-time National Football League champion returning empty-handed all through the last season and the early part of ongoing one. As the two city giants renewed their traditional rivalry, the final marked the usual battle of nerves, which the more-than-a-century-old club won in the shoot-outs after 120 minutes of regulation and extra-time failed to yield a result.
East Bengal, which had been winning the title for all the years in the new millennium, came closest to retaining it for another year as it earned more scoring chances than its opponent. But all the opportunities were wasted leading to the shoot-outs, where Mohun Bagan triumphed.
The prolonged barren stretch emphasised a lack of precision and direction as both the teams struggled to put together the act. East Bengal, disadvantaged by absence of at least six of its regulars of the likes of Bhaichung Bhutia, Brazilian Douglas Da Silva, Devjit Ghosh and Mahesh Gawli, put up a brilliant fight utilising its bench-strength and had quite a few chances of gaining the lead in both the regulation and extra-time. The best came during the extra time when Bijen Singh was located unchallenged inside the Mohun Bagan box in the 28th minute. Singh, who won it for East Bengal scoring golden goals earlier, failed in his bid on Sunday as he ran into the opponent custodian, Prasanta Dora, thereby squandering the best opportunity of winning the title for the red-and-gold brigade.
On the other hand, Mohun Bagan failed to utilise the advantage of having a depleted opponent as it put up a scrappy performance lacking both imagination and cohesion.
Coach Bhowmick had his priorities cut out and blocked Bagan trump-card Jose Barreto using his towering stopper-back Sluey Musah. With Musah doing his job right, Bagan looked like a rudderless boat lost in the high sea. Having done almost everything right, East Bengal failed only in the scoring front and were even reduced to 10 men in the last 13 minutes of Extra-time as substitute Alvito D'Cunha was given marching orders by referee J. Ravishankar, who caught the player kicking Bagan's Babun Kar.
Having kept its citadel intact despite being down to 10 men, East Bengal failed in the shoot-outs as Mohun Bagan availed all the attempts getting Barreto, Palash Karmakar, Mehtab Hussain, Sunil Chhetri and Lolendra Singh to score. East Bengal almost matched Bagan as Musah, Bijen Singh and Surkumar Singh scored on their turn to have the scoreline 3-3 at one stage but Bagan custodian, Dora, blocked M. Suresh's attempt to seal the fate in favour of Mohun Bagan.
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