Bayern's second string enthralls the crowd

As expected Bayern's youthful second team, trained by coach Hermann Gerland and the legendary Gerd Muller, put up a stellar show drubbing local club EverReady SA 5-1 in final.

AMITABHA DAS SHARMA

Red hot... the jubilant Bayern Munich team after the final.-PTI

CONTINUING with its tradition of inviting foreign clubs of varying stature and significance, the 111th edition of the IFA Challenge Shield football saw the German giant, Bayern Munich, etch its name as the new champion in the tournament's long roll of honour. As expected Bayern's youthful second team, trained by coach Hermann Gerland and the legendary Gerd Muller, put up a stellar show drubbing local club EverReady SA 5-1 in final held at the Kolkata's majestic Salt Lake Stadium.

As a tournament that gave an Indian club — Mohun Bagan — the first taste of triumph in 1911 against the ruling Englishmen, it reserves singular standing in the esteem of its countrymen. And the patrons of this event — the Indian Football Association — have always strove to preserve this exclusive identity by inviting reputed clubs from outside the country.

Though the efforts were not very consistent, the tournament, over the years, has seen some foreign visitors. The list is quite encouraging with the likes of Korean Pyongyang City Club, Penarol (Uruguay), Shakhtyor Dnoetsk (USSR), the Uzbek clubs Pakhtakor and Pavlador and Brazil's Palmeiras having participated in different years. The last two years have seen two foreign teams winning the title. The Finance and Revenue Football Club of Myanmar took the crown last year beating Mohun Bagan on penalties before Bayern became the new champion.

This year, there were few other foreign entries in the initial list flaunted by the host. All backed out except the Germans who, true to their spirit, kept their word by sending the reserve team of the former European club champion. Bayern was the top draw and the organisers gave the visitors the due recognition seeding them straight to the semifinals. The top four clubs of the city — Kingfisher East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Mohammedan Sporting and EverReady — filled a big chunk of the participation while JCT Mills, Phagwara was the only outstation team, agreeing to a last minute invitation.

In good hands... Bayern Munich reserve side coach, the legendary Gerd Mueller (left), talks to defender Christian Saba during the match against Mohammedan Sporting.-AP

The fixture and the groupings were apparently driven by commercial considerations. The top three local rivals were clubbed in one group while EverReady and JCT found place in the other cluster. Semifinal berths were reserved for the top two finishers in the first group while only one from the second grouping moved up. The arrangement was seemingly made to have both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, the two teams with high fan following, take on Bayern in turns in semis and final.

The calculations got awry from the very first match of the group league stage when the unheralded Mohammedan Sporting upstaged fancied East Bengal 3-2. The result opened up the race for the first two spots. As for East Bengal, the season was turning out to be a disastrous one. Having lost the local league crown to Mohun Bagan, the flaming red-and-gold outfit looked at IFA Shield for redemption. Coach Subhas Bhowmick, who was forced to stay back by club authorities as he sought his release from the post following failures in the last season's National Football League and the local Premier Division, also had his future hinging on the outcome of the tournament. The blow from Mohammedan Sporting did not do any good to his position.

East Bengal salvaged some pride in its concluding group league match against their traditional rivals, Mohun Bagan. The desperation to prove itself before millions of fans appeared predominant in East Bengal's 4-1 turnaround. This inspired performance kindled hopes anew as the big margin of victory, which more than compensated for the deficit incurred in the loss against Sporting, ensured a semifinal spot for East Bengal.

Sliding tackle.. Mohammedan Sporting defender Wajid Ali (right) challenges Bayern's Michael Gortlitz during the second semifinal.-S. PATRONOBISH

Among the three in the group, Mohun Bagan seemed to be struck down by performance blues. Needing to win by a two-goal margin against Mohmmedan Sporting, Mohun Bagan failed to beat a strategically defensive approach adopted by the former and could manage only a solitary goal — through its Nigerian recruit Gley Yao Rodrigue. With all the three teams tied on three points, goal differences saw Mohun Bagan bundled out.

EverReady beat JCT Mills 4-3 via the sudden death in the only group B match to become the third team to progress to the knockout phase. The semifinal line-up had the Bayern Munich reserves meeting Mohammedan Sporting while East Bengal faced EverReady.

East Bengal received its second shock of the tournament, and on this occasion without any scope of salvation, when EverReady struck it down in the first semifinal. An injury-time goal by Nigerian Chibueze Francis helped the modestly assessed EverReady make it to the final with a 2-1 verdict against East Bengal. East Bengal paid the price of inconsistency as it failed to sustain an early lead fetched by its stopgap forward Kalia Kulothungan. The team seemed to go off guard in the middle of the session as Francis got the equaliser for EverReady in the 25th minute. After East Bengal had given up following several abortive attempts in the second session, Francis scored the decisive goal for EverReady in the injury time by finishing off a provision from Liberian colleague, Theodore Wrobeh.

Shock defeat... Shasty Duley (left) clears the ball during East Bengal's semifinal loss to EverReady.-S. PATRONOBISH

The second semifinal was expectedly won by FC Bayern Munich. But the Germans failed to dazzle against a 10-man Mohammedan Sporting. The visitors, however, avoided a disaster managing two late goals to ensure their entry to the final. Though having the most of the exchanges, Bayern struggled to break the defensive net of the local team.

In the end it was left to the two substitutes, Stephan Furstner and Michael Gorlitz, to fetch the win. They scored in the 82nd and 88th minutes respectively. Sporting did a good job with its defending even after its strength was curtailed when one of its defenders, Palash Karmakar, was sent off by the English referee Dave Roberts after receiving his second booking in the 38th minute. The Germans spoke about the new surface, the climate and also the ball — which was of a local brand and hardly matching the international standards — as deterrents in their performance.

The final, happening after the Germans had completed five days of stay in the city, witnessed a different Bayern Munich. A crowd of around 10,000 at the giant Salt Lake Stadium were treated to a show of German precision. The visitors eased to a 5-1 win over EverReady. The Munich reserves went down first against EverReady conceding a goal in the 22nd minute by Lal Kamal Bhowmick, who was named the `Man of the Final'. Jos�-Luis Ortiz equalised for the European team six minutes later as the first session ended with honours even. The surge of goals came in the second session as the junior Reds struck lethal form scoring three goals within eight minutes to settle the claim for the title. Michael Stegmayer (51st), Stefan Maierhofer (54th) and Georg Niedermaier (59th) struck to put the contest beyond the reach of EverReady. Ortiz rounded off the tally (5-1) with his second goal of the match in the 84th minute.

The final results

Bayern Munich 5 (Jose Louis Ortiz, goal timing - 28th & 84th, Michael Stegmayer, 51st, Stefan Maierhofer, 54th, Georg Niedermeier, 59th) bt EverReady SA 1 (Lalkamal Bhowmik, 22nd)

Semifinals: EverReady SA 2 (Chibueze Francis, goal timing — 25th & 90+) bt East Bengal 1 (Kalia Kulothungan, 4th ); FC Bayern Munich 2 (Stephan Furstner, 82nd, Michael Gorlitz, 88th) bt Mohammedan Sporting 0.

Man of the tournament — Lalkamal Bhowmick (EverReady); Best goalkeeper — Shibram Dey (EverReady), Best coach — Anjan Nath (EverReady).