Manju scores, keeps Mohun Bagan’s title hopes alive

April 12th, 2009 - 11:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, April 12 (IANS) N.S. Manju struck in the last minute of injury time to keep Mohun Bagan afloat in the I-league championship race with a 2-1 victory over defending champions Dempo Sports Club, Goa, at Barasat near here Sunday.
Crestfallen Mohun Bagan supporters were seemingly resigned to the title remaining beyond their reach this year, as the scoreline read 1-1 and the clock indicated the final seconds of the added minutes. But Manju’s dramatic goal turned the script upside down.

The redoubtable Jose Barreto, who has fashioned Mohun Bagan’s triumphs time and again during his long stint in the club, once again showed his magic with a measured centre from the left and defender Manju seemed to come up from nowhere to score with a low head, triggering scenes of jubilation in the floodlit Vidyasagar stadium galleries.

After 21 matches, leaders Churchill Brothers and their immediate challengers Mohun Bagan both have 43 points, though the Goans are ahead on a superior goal difference.

The other title aspirant Sporting Clube de Goa saw their chances somewhat dimming as they are on 40 points from 21 outings.

The title fight will reach its climax April 16, when each of the 12 league sides wrap up their campaign. Mohun Bagan clash with fifth placed Mahindra United in Delhi, while Churchill take on Mohammedan Sporting in a home match. Sporting Clube de Goa face Air India in Gurgaon.

Earlier, the city giants took the lead in the first session through Barreto, but then saw their hopes in danger of being drowned following an opportunistic strike from his compatriot Ranty Martins post breather.

The three-time winners went ahead in the 28th minute of the encounter, thanks to a splendid strike from Barreto. Latching on to a forward through from compatriot Marcos Pereira, Barreto launched on a fast angular ran, outpacing the rival defenders. He raced into the box and bulleted in a right footer that gave no chance to Dempo custodian Abhijit Mondal.

Dempo drew even in the 55th minute riding on the spadework done by Anthony Pereira.

A sudden counter saw Pereira speed into the box from the right and essay a minus for the dangerous Martins who outjumped a Mohun Bagan defender to head home.

The match, which saw Mohun Bagan dominate after the initial forays by Dempo, was marred by frayed on-field tempers as referee Rizwan-ul Haq seemed to be losing control.

Bagan, however, came tantalisingly close to increasing their margin in the first half itself. Bhaichung Bhutia unleashed a superb side volley of a Habibur Rahaman floater, but the ball kissed the bar and went out.

After Dempo got the goal, a desprate Mohun Bagan pressed hard, and looked like scoring any moment. But six minutes from time, Barreto’s grounder went past the first post.

The Brazilian was again in action within minutes, as he tried to stab in a Manju centre, but Abhijit blocked his side’s debacle at the cost of a corner.

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