Monday, Jun 16, 2003
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By Our Sports Reporter
Tollygunge Agragami custodian Chinmoy Banerjee (left) thwarts an attempt by Bijen Singh of East Bengal in the Libero Cup in Kolkata on Sunday.
Agragami beat Mohun Bagan 5-4, via tie-breakers, to begin the season on a resounding note.
A shorter duration (60 minutes instead of the usual 90) was the only alteration in the format as the four elite-division National Football League (NFL) teams defending champion Kingfisher East Bengal, former champion Mohun Bagan, Tollygunge Agragami and Mohammedan Sporting of the city participated in the football fest.
The tournament, a variation of Futsal, was conceived primarily to give the city's four bigwigs a chance to analyse each other in an informal engagement prior to a rigorous season that will have two drawn-out league contests the local Calcutta Football League (CFL) and the premier NFL.
There was no clear winner in the evening as all the three ties two semifinals and the title clash were decided through tie-breakers. The final saw Agragami dominating the first half and finding the target through former international Amit Das, who scored with a spectacular shot in the 15th minute.
Bagan found its rhythm after the introduction of diminutive striker Ashim Biswas in the second session, but the goal came through Agragami defender Tenjen Kaibang who bulged his own net while trying to clear a cross from Bagan's Monitomba Singh in the 47th minute.
In the tie-breakers, Agragami custodian Chinmoy Banerjee was the hero, making two good saves that enabled his team put it across Bagan. Banerjee, who was declared the man-of-the-tournament and awarded a Libero motorcycle, thwarted the attempts of Bagan's Hardeep Gill and Manitomba Singh in the shoot-out.
Bagan goalkeeper Imran Khan could, in turn, effect only one save blocking Parthasarathi Dey while the other four Agragami players scored.
East Bengal, winner of all the tournaments including NFL and CFL last season, had a poor start and was upset by Agragami in the first knock-out (semifinal) match of the afternoon. Agragami, a team of talented youngsters moulded under Bagan's former coach Subrata Bhattacharya, went ahead in the first half through Biman Mondal's strike in the 28th minute.
East Bengal's Devjit Ghosh found the equaliser in the 39th minute before the match lapsed into the tie-breaker. Agragami won the penalties 5-3 with all its players converting while East Bengal saw Bhaichung Bhutia and Sasthi Duley mess up their attempts.
Later in the evening, Bagan reached the final through penalties, beating Sporting 4-2 after the 60-minute period remained barren. Sporting, gaining entry into the NFL elite-division this season, dominated the proceedings but Bagan survived the assault before forcing the shoot-outs.
Bagan goalkeeper Imran Khan, who was declared man-of-the-match, made two crucial saves to take his team past Sporting in the tie-breakers.
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