Calcutta: Two incidents would clearly sum up Prayag United SC's 2-1 win over McDowell Mohun Bagan, in an I-League matc, at the Salt Lake Stadium, here on Friday.
One was just at the stroke of half-time. Carlos Hernandez left three Bagan players on the dead with an out-of-the-world lob to set up the eventual winner for Kayne Vincent. And the second one was after referee Khamba Singh blew the final whistle. An elated United coach Sanjoy Sen raised his arms and smiled. A smile of satisfaction… the smile of a winner.
While Carlos toyed with the Bagan defence at will, Sen's tactics completely fooled Bagan coach Santosh Kashyap. The Costa Rican World Cupper was at the heart of every United SC move, showing plenty of creativity in the midfield. His wonderful skills left every one mesmerised. A pass here, a quick half-turn there, Carlos lit up an near-empty Salt Lake Stadium.
In the 45th minute, he picked up a loose ball in the midfield. After playing a one-two, he intended to make a run on the left flank. With three defenders closing him down, it needed a stroke of brilliance. And he delivered and how!
He suddenly turned and made a delightful lob with his heel, giving the ball a backspin. Such measured was his movement, that it not only bamboozled the three Bagan players but the ball landed right at Kayne Vincent's feet. All that the New Zealand striker had to do was to place the ball into the back of the net past an onrushing Arindam Bhattacharya and he didn't flounder.
It was Bagan who drew the first blood. In the 19th minute, Okolie Odafe made merry when a pathetic Gouramangi Singh miscued a header while attempting to clear a Denson Devadas lob. Odafe seized the opportunity and rounded off goalkeeper Subrata Paul before netting the ball.
Nine minutes later, Bagan conceded a goal which can only be termed unlucky. From the midfield, Sukhen Dey played a long ball for Ranty Martins. In a bid to clear the ball, defender Khelemba Meetei shot a right footer. Unfortunately, the ball ended up at the back of the net.
However, the winner stole the wind out of Bagan sails. Bagan's best simply was not enough to see them score an equaliser.
Talking about the form of the players of both the sides, Bagan's high-profile 'unfit' striker Tolgay Ozebe failed to find his feet. Odafe, on the other hand, will do himself a lot of good if he shreds the self-importance tag that he carries with him. His selfish attitude robbed Bagan a lot of goal scoring opportunities. Denson was the only player in the Bagan side who impressed. He tried to bring verve into an otherwise static Bagan midfield.
United SC players looked more adventurous and had a definite purpose to their endeavour. Now, a thing or two about Sen's tactical acumen. Knowing that Bagan will solely depend on Odafe's heroics, he employed Anupam Sarkar to mark him. And Anupam didn't disappoint his coach.
Also while Bagan concentrated on playing long balls, United SC based their attack on passes, stretching the opponent by utilising the width of the ground.
Kashyap's strategy of playing long passes was rendered completely useless because of his wrong team selection. He should have played winger Snehashish Chakraborty instead of fielding an out-of-form Sabeeth on the flanks.
With around two-week gap before Bagan's next I-League match, it will do them a world of good if they introspect their two losses in the competition.