If there's one player who has been a revelation for Peerless in this dramatic edition of the Calcutta Football League, it's the veteran big-club reject Ansumana Kromah. The journeyman Liberian forward has played for the two giants of the Maidan, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, before being let go by them after a handful of appearances.
With Peerless this time, he has had a point to prove to his former employers and has scored in successive famous victories over them. However, Kromah was sorely missed by his manager Jahar Das on Monday, in another crucial game for the then league toppers, as they took on their closest challengers, the other big club of the city, Mohammedan SC. His absence was telling, as Mohammedan prevailed in a tough encounter by 2-0 through goals from Kareem Omolaja and Vanlalbaiaa Chhangte to go top of the league and set up a mouth-watering climactic battle for the title.
Without his main attacking weapon, Das set up his team in a deep block, relying on counter-attacks to threaten the Mohammedan goal. However, the gallant defending was not enough to keep a clean sheet as the MSC players managed to breach their fort and then add one more. Peerless will rue a missed penalty and a couple of razor-sharp attacks that could have ended up in a goal had the Liberian, out with a double suspension, been around.
The black-and-whites haven't won the league in 38 years. Once as good as the other two of the dominant triumvirate, Mohammedan have fallen behind Mohun Bagan and East Bengal by a considerable distance in the preceding decades. Now, they have a chance at redemption, a chance to give back something to the club faithful who have waited patiently despite years of bitter setbacks.
In the derby on Thursday, MSC upstaged an out-of-gas and ideas Mohun Bagan, the defending champions, in a momentous 3-2 win. Now, they have pulled off another important triumph to get within touching distance of the elusive trophy.
With defending champions Mohun Bagan almost out of the title race barring a miracle, it's become a three-horse race in the CFL after a long time. While MSC lead with 19 points from 10, both Peerless and record-winners East Bengal have played a game less and have 17 points in their kitty. The Red-and-Golds have kept the pressure up with consistent victories after some early slip-ups and have a great chance of regaining the title.
Thursday is a big day
The league might end up being decided on Thursday itself when two vital matches take place in two venues of the city in the afternoon. Thunderstorms are forecasted for the city on the day, but the glaring afternoon Sun may also play hide and seek with the grey clouds on a day that promises a lot of drama.
Alejandro Menendez's East Bengal will square off against the in-form Mohammedan SC in a high-profile encounter at Yubabharati Kridangan, while in the EB ground, Peerless will battle it out against struggling Rainbow. A win for Peerless will mean they are still in the driving seat with two matches to go. However, if they drop points under mounting pressure and either of the two warring giants on the other side of the city pick up a win, they might be on course to restore the hegemony of the big guns.
However, MSC and their fans might feel that that hegemony has been usurped by the other two and will be desperate to take this golden chance to claim a first league title in 38 years. EB will be determined to add this silverware to their kitty as well, while, Peerless, runners-up last year, will want their fairy-tale to have a happy ending. All in all, the CFL is set up for a thrilling final few matches.