Baichung nets Bagan winner

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Kolkata, Dec 30 (UNI) East Bengal plunged further into despair as Baichung Bhutia scored the winner today for the green-maroons in the I-League to make it four in a row at the Salt Lake Stadium here.

East Bengal came into the match with tremendous pressure. It was two-pronged.

They had lost three matches in a row in the I-League pushing them to the eighth spot.

Moreover, they had lost three straight games at the Salt Lake Stadium to arch-rivals Mohun Bagan. Everything said and done, Subrata's job was on the line. It was difficult to win with a side low on confidence and even lower on player supply.

Bagan now have 11 points from eight games, while East Bengal have seven from eight.

East Bengal survived the first half on their wafer thin defence largely because of Bagan's chaotic gameplan. But the inevitable happened in the 61st minute. Douglas sent a cross from the top of the box that Barreto headed for Baichung to head home unmarked on the far side.

As the southern block of the stadium erupted in joy, one saw Subrata Bhattacharjee, the coach of East Bengal, quietly retire to his dug out.

Having taken in the goal, East Bengal came out firing on all cylinders. Subrata got Dipankar Roy into the proceedings replacing Mehrajuddin Wadoo. But the numerous raids bore little fruit as neither Edmilson nor Ashim Biswas lived to their billing inside the box.

Ironically, it was Biswas who almost gave their best chance of the match 51 minutes into the game when his curling left footer missed the target by a whisker. He was replaced by Snehasis chakraborty in the 78th minute.

Meanwhile, Carlos, Mohun Bagan's coach, got in Laalkamal Bhowmik for Habibur Rehman and Lalampuia for Venkatesh to give more teeth to their attack.

The first half belonged to Tamil Nadu star referee K Shankar more than any one else. In the first 20 minutes he showed his intent flashing six yellow cards making sure that the grapes of wrath had reached the time of fruition.

It all started in the fifth minute with Mehtab Hossain seeing the card for a foul on Douglas. In the eighth minute Edmilson was the second red-gold player to see the card. The very next minute Baichung saw yellow card for a handball. Now it was turn Douglas to see the yellow on the far side for committing a foul on Mehtab Hossain. The final card was shown to Mehrajuddin for a foul on his own comrade Shoumik Dey.

This apart, the game never saw any disciplined raid from either side. Neither could East Bengal weave any creativity into their move, not did Mohun Bagan show any earnest effort other than the sporadic bursts of Jose Barreto and Baichung Bhutia.

It was Douglas who showed the first signs of aggression in the opening minute, the match faded away into mediocrity. Two other chances worth mentioning came in the 14th minute and 34th minute. In the first case Baichung's angled vollwy from within the box was parried away by Subrata Paul and in the second case Ashim Biswas could not capitalise on a faulty defensive clearance as his weak grounder softly nested into Shilton Paul.

UNI

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