Mohun Bagan leaders, George Telegraph dark horses

By Sirshendu Panth, IANS,

Kolkata : Title holders Mohun Bagan lead the table, but George Telegraph are proving to be the surprise pack, three weeks into the Indian Football Association (IFA)-Sahara Calcutta Football League.

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After a sound start, Mohammedan Sporting stumbled Friday, while East Bengal have done little to cheer their fans in the eight-team league so far.

Beginning with a 3-0 win over Peerless, Mohun Bagan seemed to be going great guns with the several Tata Football Academy stars in their ranks giving good accounts of themselves under the tutelage of coach Karim Bencharifa. However, Mohun Bagan’s all-conquering march hit a speed-breaker earlier this week when they were held goalless by Calcutta Port Trust.

Leaving behind his brush with the Indian law for carrying excess foreign exchange, Brazilian Jose Barreto has served his side well, cracking the tournament’s first hat-trick against Chirag United, before his team mate Shylo Malsawmtluanga emulated him with a triple strike against Railway FC three days later. These are the only two hat-tricks in the league so far.

George, traditionally a middle-level team in the Kolkata maidan famed for giving anxious moments to their more fancied rivals, have put up a praiseworthy performance and now rank third with eight points from four outings.

Comprising mainly home-spun players of the state, George are breathing down the neck of leaders Mohun Bagan (ten from four matches) and Mohammedan Sporting (nine from four outings). They finished 1-1 with East Bengal, before stunning Sporting 3-1.

Mohammedan Sporting’s attacking combination of Theodore Sunday Wrobeh and Mike Okoro have been giving nightmares to the opponent defenders. The duo has fired three goals each, besides raising the hopes of the thousands of Sporting fan after the swift 3-1 win over East Bengal.

But the pressure of expectation told upon Mphammedan Sporting when they went down 1-3 to George, who played a marvellous game on a treacherous Barasat stadium ground.

None of the sides have been able to dish out any superlative variety of soccer so far, and a large part of that could be due to the absence of the stars now in Hyderabad to turn out for India in the AFC Challenge Cup.

East Bengal have been the worst hit, with eight of their players called for national duty.

The red and gold brigade now lie at the fifth spot with five points from four games, and coach Monoranjan Bhattacharya must be spending sleepless nights over the condition of the porous defence.

East Bengal have also been forced to play all their matches at the Salt Lake stadium, with their own ground and gallery now undergoing large-scale renovation. Similar is the predicament of Sporting, who have to travel to either Salt Lake or Barasat.

A novel feature of this edition of the league is that all the teams have to include a under-19 footballer in the playing XI.

The laudable effort on the part of the Indian Football Association (IFA), the soccer regulatory body of West Bengal, also generated a controversy on July 20 when East Bengal did not have a single under-19 player on the ground for about five minute during their tie against Sporting.

Following is the league table:

1.Mohun Bagan AC 04 03 01 00 09-01 +7 10
2.Mohammedan Sporting Club 04 03 00 01 08-05 +3 09
3.George Telegraph SC 04 02 02 00 05-02 +3 08
4.Calcutta Port Trust SC 05 01 03 01 01-02 -1 06
5.East Bengal Club 04 01 02 01 05-05 0 05
5.Chirag United Sports Club 04 01 01 02 04-04 0 04
7. Railway FC 04 00 02 02 02-07 -5 02
8. Peerless Sports Club 05 00 01 04 00-08 -8 01

(P-played, W-won, D-drawn, L-lost, GF-goals for, GA-goals against, GD-goal difference, PTS-points).