Calcutta,July24: Bhaichung Bhutia dropped in at the Sikkim dressing room at least an hour before the start of the match. Before that he personally got the Northeast side a sponsor for their kits.
He discussed strategy with senior players like Nirmal Chetri, cheered every move from his corner seat in the Mohun Bagan VIP gallery although he would have perhaps liked to stay away from the club premises. He was doing all this for his state. But Bhutia could have only done so much.
Ultimately, the India captain left the Bagan ground dejected as Chhattisgarh pipped Sikkim 1-0 in a Cluster VI Santosh Trophy match to severely dent the Northeast team’s chances of making it to the pre-quarter final round.
Chhattisgarh need only to draw their next match to make it to the last 16 but Bhaichung will be sincerely hoping that Haryana can beat them by at least a 1-0 margin as that would keep Sikkim in the competition.
“We didn’t have four of our regular players, including captain Sanju Pradhan who has high fever. They are young boys and it’s a learning experience for them. “Nirmal’s red card was unfortunate. I also feel that the refereeing was a factor. The standard of supervision is a concern,” the India captain said before leaving the Bagan premises where he stayed away from the club dressing room. Pradhan has been admitted to a city nursing home with viral fever.
Thus, with Pradhan absent and stand-in captain Nirmal Chetri getting his marching orders in the very first minute, things became really difficult for Sikkim. But the blame for returning home empty-handed is theirs alone.
In the 29th minute, when Sikkim striker Bijendra Rai was brought down inside the penalty box, referee Deepak Dey promptly awarded the penalty. But Engphohang Subba’s feeble drive was saved by Chhattisgarh goalkeeper Partha Dey.
Referee: Deepak Dey