If you are an away side and you get a standing ovation at the end of the match, no matter who the opponent is, it proves the class and pedigree of your performance. So when the crowd at the Mohun Bagan Ground stood up to heartily congratulate the performance of the young Indian Arrows, it does earn you some respect. Remember, this is the oldest football club in the country, which does put a lot of weight to their achievement.
The stage was set for Mohun Bagan. It was their first home game of the season, and they were playing against the biggest underdogs of the League, Indian Arrows. Sanjoy Sen had said before the match, nothing more than a win would be acceptable. The general consensus was, with the kind of season Bagan have had so far, this game would have been the much needed kick-start to their I-League campaign. But it all went wrong for them.
Mohun Bagan were matched blow for blow by the Arrows
Bagan were off to a good start, with a 27th minute penalty conversion putting them 1-0 up in front of a jam packed crowd. But when Rahul Praveen equalized 6 minutes later, the home crowd feared for the worst. Bear in mind, we are talking about a bunch of 16-17 years old threatening the confidence of arguably the biggest club in the country.
It was a brilliant display of grit and determination by the young guns from the early age brackets of the Indian team. Their midfield engine of Kiyam and Jeakson Singh put in a real shift all afternoon, neutralizing the experienced midfield of Raynier Fernandes and Shilton D'Silva. Such was their dominance, that the Arrows never looked like losing the match, with the draw what they came for and exactly what they got.
Bagan did not deserve to lose the game, but such was their attacking potency even after being a man up, that a draw seemed like the right result. Bear in mind, the Indian Arrows were billed to lose this match big, but they came out with a more than deserved point. The goal scored by them was a beauty to watch.
“Never have I seen such kind of support for my boys,” - Luis Norton de Matos
It was a classic counter-attacking goal. Rahim Ali outran Kinshuk Debnath, with the young gun showing what Mohun Bagan were missing in their side. A few quick passes opened up the Bagan defence beautifully with Sanjeev Stalin finding Ali in space. Ali then glided past Debnath and squared it for R Praveen, who did really well to get ahead of two Bagan defenders and slot it past Shilton Pal.
In the end, the standing ovation was thoroghly deserved and the Indian Arrows, after a mixed start to the campaign, are really coming into the groove and showing their worth and the plus points of playing in the FIFA World Cup. With the shape taken by them under Luis Norton de Matos exceeding expectations, the future for Indian football looks bright and hopeful.