By Nandakumar Marar
MUMBAI: Football goalkeepers have very little by way of a back-up option… deliver or be damned. Goal-line saves by a teammate showing the presence of mind to scramble the ball away is rare, so his show under the crossbar decides whether the team savours the high of victory or bitter after-taste of defeat. ATK Mohun Bagan’s first-choice custodian, Arindam Bhattacharja, saw both sides of the coin in back-to-back Indian Super League final games.
Two misjudgments by him against Mumbai City FC cost defending champions ATKMB a goal each in either half of the title clash in season seven, his team ended on the wrong side of a 2-1 scoreline. Arindam’s hung his head down in disappointment at Margao’s Nehru stadium. Last year’s ISL final, at the same venue, had resulted in the same player chosen for the ‘Player of the Final award, against Chennaiyin FC. ATK won 3-1 and goalkeeper returned home as a saviour to a celebration in Kolkata.
The two slip-ups in ISL 2021 final apart, Arindam’s consistently efficient performance over 23 games (10 clean sheets and 19 goals conceded, 59 saves and 78 shots on target faced) deservedly won him the first place in Golden Glove awards for best goalkeeper in the league. Unfortunately for him, the nature of his job is so dynamic that two split-second slip-ups will be remembered, resulting in a self-goal by teammate Tiri and the second goal by rival striker Bipin Singh. David Williams’ strike earlier for ATKMB went in vain.
Mumbai City counter-attacked via a long ball from Ahmed Jahouh off a free-kick. Arindam watched from under the bar as central defender Tiri moved in for a headed clearance. The Spanish defender waited for his goalkeeper to shout. As Bipin got closer and hearing no warning yell from behind, Tiri tried to head the ball back and away from his own goal hoping the goalkeeper will save the situation. It didn’t happen that way. The ball dropped into the left corner and rolled in.
The custodian was at fault when MCFC took advantage of a gift goal towards the closing stage, rushing out to take charge of a long pass and spilling the ball. Bartholomev Ogbeche set up Bipin for a cool diagonal finish along the carpet, before the horrified goalkeeper turned and rushed back to the rescue. No teammate from ATKMB was present on the goal-line to guard an empty net. In the first instance, the custodian may have felt Tiri was in control of the situation and hence did not intervene.
ATKMB could not avert the second goal as the defensive line-up felt the goalkeeper is competent to take care of the aerial threat. Stunned by these blows, the Golden Glove honour for a performance over numerous matches and for rescuing his team repeatedly with reflex saves, cool collections is small consolation. Arindam’s sterling show during the final, blocking shots by Hugo Boumos, Raynier Fernandes, Hernan Santana, Adam Le Fondre kept the team in the title hunt, but eventually will be overlooked.
Mumbai City custodian and captain, Amrinder Singh, was also punished for ball-watching by Williams and got lucky the second time when a self-goal by teammate Mohammed Rakip was ruled out. ATKMB striker Roy Krishna was pulled up for off-side as the ball stuck the MCFC substitute’s leg and rolled into the net. No drastic decision reversal happened at the other end, Arindam ended up as part of the second-best squad in the league, though this experienced custodian remains number one in the latest Golden Gloves list.
Golden Glove list ISL Season 7 (Top 5): 1. Arindam
Bhattacharja, 2. Amrinder Singh. 3. T P Rehenesh (Jamshedpur FC), 4.
Laxmikant Kattimani (Hyderabad FC), 5. Vishal Kaith (Chennaiyin FC).
Two misjudgments by Arindam Bhattacharja cost defending champions ATKMB a goal each in either half of the title clash in Season 7.
By Nandakumar Marar