Mohun Bagan got the better of their arch-rivals East Bengal in the I-League’s first Kolkata Derby with a slender 2-1 win at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Sunday. Mohun Bagan doubled the lead within an hour of play followed by an East Bengal upsurge in the second-half which allowed the Derby to live up to the expectations with a tale of two halves in terms of dictating the terms of play.
East Bengal had an early chance to go ahead when a corner headed by Marti Crespi went inches wide right in the 1st minute of the game. Mohun Bagan took over the game right from that moment and dominated the proceedings for the next 45 minutes. The Bagan forward line led by Baba Diawara, Nongdamba Naorem and Joseba Beitia troubled the East Bengal defence. Beitia created some good openings with his incisive passing and caught East Bengal defence napping on several occasions. Mohun Bagan finally took the lead in the 18th minute when Naorem with his sheer trickery, skills and brilliant control on the ball, got past his marker Kamalpreet Singh and found Beitia stranded in the East Bengal box. Beitia, completely unmarked headed it into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
East Bengal had few half-chances in the later part of the first half to draw level but could not really deliver the final finish. An Abhishek Ambekar cross towards Jaime Colado was cleared away by Dhanachandra Singh while a Lalrindika free-kick after being squandered by Sankar Roy fell to Pintu Mahata. Owing to the chaos in the box, Mahata failed to keep his shot on target and the ball went across the face of the goal for a goal-kick. Mohun Bagan went into the break with a deserving 1-0 win as East Bengal looked nearly clueless and without any plan in the first half.
The second-half began with a very steady and tactical approach from both the sides. East Bengal had the first real chance of the second-half when a Pintu Mahata ball from the right almost ended up in the goal over Roy in the 46th minute. Mohun Bagan doubled their lead in the 64th minute after a phase of dull play from both the sides. Beitia swung in a regular corner and found Baba Diawara who headed it in the 64th minute. With a two goal hill to climb, East Bengal changed their gears to get into the game and dominated the rest of the second-half.
Alejandro Menendez introduced Edmund Lalrindika and the BFC youngster had an instant impact on the game. His through ball in the 71st minute found Marcos Espada who finished the chance first time with a brief strike. However, Edmund Lalrindika was forced to be substituted after suffering a blow from Fran Gonzalez and his debut for East Bengal was very short but had a big impact. With the goal, East Bengal were pumped up and had a series of attempts on the goal and hit the post twice in a period of five minutes. Lalrindika Ralte found Crespi whose header rattled off the goal-post and went wide in the 75th minute. Juan Mera went for goal from distance and hit the woodwork in the 80th minute. East Bengal kept pressing till the final whistle but it was just was not enough.
Mohun Bagan stay top of the table with 17 points from 8 games while East Bengal stay at fifth with just 8 points from 7 games. East Bengal really need to start winning their games in a bid to keep their title hopes alive. Mohun Bagan visit NEROCA on 23rd January while East Bengal visit Chennai City on 25th January.