Fed Cup: Dempo ahead on consistency, but Mohun Bagan no pushovers (Preview)

December 20th, 2008 - 9:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Dec 20 (IANS) I-League champions Dempo Sports Club have the edge on form and consistency, but Mohun Bagan - despite missing Bhaichung Bhutia - would be no pushovers on local turf in the 30th Federation Cup football final here Sunday.The city outfit would be missing lethal striker Bhutia due to double booking, while stopper Anand Vasan has to sit out following a pulled hamstring when the two sides line-up at the Salt Lake stadium for claiming the honours in the knockout tourney.

For the Kolkata team, Rakesh Masih is set to play as a central defender to make up for Vasan’s absence, and Lalam Puiya would fill in for Bhutia in the match which is likely to see a huge turnout of Mohun Bagan fans.

But what Dempo should be worried about is the green and maroon brigade’s remarkable ability to stage comebacks that they have shown in their last two matches.

In the crucial group game against Air India, Mohun Bagan came back after conceding an early goal to notch up a 2-1 win and march into the semi-final. In the penultimate game opposite arch-rivals East Bengal, Mohun Bagan equalised after going down 0-1 to ultimately win in the tie-break.

Much would depend on the redoubtable Brazilian Jose Barreto, who has to shoulder a lot of burden in the strike zone in Bhutia’s absence.

“We’ll miss Bhaichung. But we aren’t short of options. We’ve got Ishfaq (Ahmed) and Lalam Puiya. We have various plans in store. But they have to be implemented according to the demands of the situation,” said Mohun Bagan coach Karim Bencharifa.

Dempo, easily the biggest brand ambassador of Indian football over the last two-three years, is the country’s only club to have reached AFC Cup semi-finals.

In the domestic circuit, Dempo have also showed an exquisite run in recent times. They won the 2004 Federation Cup, and clinched consecutive I-League honours in 2006 and 2007, asserting their supremacy in Indian football.

Another positive aspect for the Goans is they have retained more-or-less the same bunch of players and also groomed talents like Joachim Abranches, already being regarded as a future star.

The ability to play a beautiful passing game, launch third man moves, and services of foreigners of the calibre of Nigerian striker Ranty Martins and Brazilian playmaker Beto, make Dempo firm contenders for the title.

Martins, who was knocked senseless after a head-on collision with Churchill’s Kalu Ogba Nnanna during the semi-final, is fully fit and raring to go.

But Dempo coach Armando Colaco seemed more concerned about whether the presence of a large crowd would put pressure on the match officials.

“I hope we see an impartial supervision. I hope the referee doesn’t succumb to the pressure of home fans,” said Colaco.

On the flip side, he thought that the presence of Mohun Bagan supporters would be a boon for his side as far as the game is concerned.

“The pressure will be on Mohun Bagan players as they will be playing before their own supporters,” Colaco said.

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