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SBT splits points with Bagan

By Our Sports Reporter

KOLKATA, FEB. 16. State Bank of Travancore (SBT) pulled off a major coup with its modest reserves holding three-time champion Mohun Bagan 1-1 in an eighth round match of the IX National Football League at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Wednesday.

Both goals came in the second session with Bagan taking the lead in the 61st minute through midfielder Mehtab Husain. SBT struck back in the 81st minute through substitute Asif Saheer.

Mohun Bagan has 11 points from eight matches — nine short of the league leader East Bengal on 20 points — to remain among the middle placed teams, while SBT enhanced its tally to 9 points from eight outings.

The last few rounds of the tournament has seen the performance of Mohun Bagan take a turn for the worse as the team could earn only four out of a possible 9 points from three home assignments.

Roberto protests

Mohun Bagan coach, Subrata Bhattacharya attributed his team's failure to poor refereeing and urged his club officials to make a formal protest to the All India Football Federation (AIFF). Meanwhile, Brazilian recruit Roberto Mendes Silva launched a protest against Bhattacharya. Roberto, replaced in the 37th minute by Sunil Chhetri, walked off the field disappointed and instead of joining his colleagues on the bench left the stadium vowing to take his coach's arbitrary behaviour up with the team management.

Meanwhile on the field, SBT took time to adjust to the conditions, and Mohun Bagan made most of this advantage finding easy access into the opponent box. Forwards Ashim Biswas and Roberto, and midfielder Renedy Singh, who was making a comeback after an injury lay-off, had their share of opportunities but none could score. The SBT custodian, Harshal Rahman, did a good job under the bar saving at least two clear chances. Rahman was named man-of-the-match.

Mohun Bagan finally got the break off a set-piece situation as a Renedy Singh corner in the 61st minute reached substitute Jerry Zirsanga, whose attempt was helped into the goal by Mehtab Hussain.

Two minutes later Biswas sneaked into the SBT box on a solo effort and was apparently felled by a defender, but referee Dipak Singh Bisht ignored the appeal for a penalty.

A late surge by SBT saw the equaliser coming up as Asif Saheer used his sprint to good effect breaking into the Bagan box. Saheer's right-footed attempt was covered by Mohun Bagan's Brazilian defender, Eduardo Coelho, but the latter miscued his clearance seeing the ball roll into the goal. However, the goal officially was attributed to Saheer, as the match commissioner Gulab Singh Chauhan later confirmed.

SBT had a chance of taking the lead a few minutes later but the framework came in the way of successive attempts from Abdul Hakim and Saheer. Mohun Bagan had its chance on the counter-attack but Chhetri sent his header over the bar.

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