United Champions Trophy 2006 - A Report
Day 1 - Report by Somshubhra Paul
With HTMT pulling out of the tournament, TI had to play 3 matches in the group leagues, against HSBC, GE Healthcare & Times of India . All matches for TI were scheduled for day One. Two of the four teams were to qualify for the knock-out stages.
Match 1: Against HSBC
Fielding Clifford, Gavin, Mahit, Sujoy and Ashwani (Goalie) and with a bench consisting of Ashish & Som, TI started on a promising note. The first half consisted of some hard football, with Clifford hitting the post several times, Gavin getting angry with the opponents’ rough tactics, Gavin and Som replacing each other and Ashish coming in sometime later. The first half was dominated by TI almost till the end. Then HSBC struck and TI was down 0-1 at half-time.
The second half was not so good for TI as we conceded once again, and then Ashwani was fouled upon, to be taken out with a swollen hand. Again the referee chose to ignore the foul against TI. Ashish put on the gloves to replace Ashwani. One more goal was scored near the end of play, and TI went down 0-3 against HSBC.
Match 2: Against GE
This promised to be an easy game in TI’s favour, and turned out just as predicted. TI started scoring almost as soon as the first whistle was blown, and kept on scoring repeatedly till the long whistle at the end of the second half. Sharath started in the goal in Ashwani’s absence, with a promise from Clifford to take him off as soon as TI went up. The promise was kept after TI’s second goal, and the veteran Hemant donned his gloves to stand in front of the nets. It was Clifford’s aim to have everyone score, and he almost succeeded, with goals coming from Sujoy, Sharath, Ashish (2) and Clifford himself (4). TI won emphatically at 8-0.
Match 3: Against TOI
This was a do or die match for TI, who had to win to qualify. TOI had drawn with HSBC, which meant that they could qualify even with a draw. With that in mind, they started in a very defensive note, with TI making repeated attacks at the opponents’ goal. But against the run of play, TOI struck first (in the second half) through a mis-understanding between otherwise flawless Mahit and fill-in goalie Hemant. TI however came back strongly with a brilliant series of passes, covering both flanks, before Clifford smashed the ball in through the TOI goalies out-stretched arms. The game became very interesting at this point, with TOI trying to hold on somehow, while TI was trying to roll one ball into the opponents’ nets. After repeated accurate passing among the TI players, which didn’t result in any goals, the change of fortunes came dramatically with 30 seconds to go! A few quick passes between Clifford and Som took them near the opponents’ goal, and a sharp push from Som through the defender’s legs left Clifford with the ball in front of only the TOI goalkeeper. With the amazing calm, which only Clifford is capable of, he feigned the goalkeeper to one side, and pushed the ball in to the nets, through the other side. The final whistle came within seconds of this and TI qualified for the semis, having beaten TOI 2-1.
Day Two - Report by Anupam Roy
Semi Finals: Against TESCO
Playing against a controversial opponent TESCO, TI started the game in a defensive mood. Starting line-up included Sharath as the goal-keeper, Sujoy & Mahit in defence, Anupam in midfield & Clifford as our lone striker. Som, Amlendu & Hemant were there on the bench. Som substituted Anupam after 10 minutes which immediately changed the game, with Som & Clifford both going forward & causing quite a few problems in TESCO's defence. Amlendu then substituted Som. The first half ended scoreless.
The next half started brightly for TI. Sujoy was everywhere on the field, blocking shots, tackling players, passing the ball forward. Mahit was in superb form too. His romping runs from the defence to the other half were a treat to our eyes. The opponents looked pretty relaxed when Clifford, our super hero struck! (You must know he was a professional & has played for Churchill Brothers in Goa). TESCO realized that they had to do something but they could not beat Sharath even once. I don't remember "who" were substituted "when" in the 2nd half. TI grew in confidence as Clifford played some brilliant one-two with Som. TESCO's defence was once more in trouble but they survived as Anupam's lethal right footer could only manage to rattle the woodwork.
Then came the defining moment when Clifford struck again! The entire TI support-team (which included the wives of 3 of the players on the pitch) went crazy. TESCO tried to fight back. Their goalie made an interesting run from their goal in the dying minutes but TI coolly defended. TI won 2-0 & reached the finals!
MOM : Clifford.
Finals: Against HSBC
TI had played HSBC in the group matches. Though TI dominated the game, HSBC had won the match 3-0. Now these 2 teams have to play against each other once more! This time its a big, big clash! Time for revenge??
Starting 5 were the same as in the semis. It was a boring 1st five minutes, both sides playing very defensive. Clifford was injured but played through the pain barrier. He knew he was needed. Their attackers tried to muscle their way into TI's penalty box but as usual we were rock solid in our defence. As luck would have it, a brilliant pass from our opponent saw them score the 1st goal. A huge disappointment. We have to come back from behind! It didn't take much time before TI sparkled. A gentle touch from Som & ball was at Clifford's feet inside opponent's penalty area. Everyone knew what was to follow. The ball kissed the net & TI was level!
First half ended 1-1.
Second half was a physical encounter from the start. It was true that all the players were tired & rarely anyone tried anything new. Every individual was aware of the importance of every second & execution was simply superb. HSBC tried numerous substitutions but none worked. There were 2 incidents that forced the referee to flash yellow cards. The 1st one was shown to one of the HSBC defenders for pulling Clifford's shirt as he tried to make a run, down the left. I, personally, feel that it should have been a direct red, as he was the last defender & Clifford had gone past him. Then a similar incident occurred but this time in the heat of the moment Clifford shot the ball into the stands. A yellow card for him. The 2nd half saw no goals & we had to go for a penalty shootout.
Sadly, we had made a mistake. The last few minutes didn't include Anupam, a regular penalty taker, in the playing 5. This implies he can't shoot!
Tension was growing. Out of Som, Sujoy & Mahit, at least one of them had to shoot.
Shot 1 : HSBC scores.
Shot 2 : Clifford shoots but an extra ordinary save from their goalkeeper denies him.
TI supporters shocked!!
Shot 3 : HSBC scores again.
Shot 4 : Sharath (our goalie) shoots & scores! Excellent strike!
Hopes still alive!
Shot 5 : HSBC player shoots directly at Sharath. Jubilation for TI.
Shot 6 : Come on Sujoy! Must score. An exceptionally quiet Sujoy shoots.
It goes in! Yes it does! Sujoy regains his normal self as we can hear his voice once again. A controversial penalty, as HSBC players mob upon the referee claiming that the ball has hit the cross-bar and come out. TI players very calm, as they know that the referee has already blown his whistle for a goal. The ball HAD crossed the goal line before coming out.
Sudden death to follow!
Amlendu biting his nails, Mahit sitting on the ground helplessly (must be praying to the Almighty).
Shot 7 : HSBC No. 7 shoots, straight over the crossbar!
Shot 8 : Som steps ahead, goes for power, shoots! Believe me, it goes in!
HSBC shell-shocked. We didn't know what to do.
TI has actually won a corporate tournament!!
Celebration Details :
1) Som falls down on the horrible ground (not a glimpse of grass to be spotted anywhere!)
2) Sujoy, Clifford jump on him.
3) Others followed. (Even our heavy-weights Hemant & Sharath!)
TI, the winning team, lifts the cup!
Clap, clap, clap!