The 299th Kolkata derby saw all sorts of drama including a power cut, on Sunday night, as a controversial penalty sealed the result in favour of the Green and Maroon...
East Bengal created more chances but a man-of-the match display from Bagan goalkeeper Sangram Mukherjee gave Subrata Bhattcharya’s side three vital points as Trevor Morgan suffered his first derby defeat.
There were no real surprises in the starting lineup for either side as both Odafa Okolie and Jose Ramirez Barreto returned to the eleven for Bagan while newly signed Australian defender Daniel Zeleny was also handed his debut at the heart of the central defence alongside Kinshuk Debnath.
For East Bengal, Robin Singh partnered Alan Gow upfront in the absence of the suspended Tolgay Ozbey while Sushant Matthew started in central midfield as Mehtab Hussain wasn’t even fit to make the bench.
More than 90,000 spectators were inside the stadium and there was a sense of tension in the approach of the players as both sides started slowly.
East Bengal were seeing the ball more but it was the Mariners who had the first real chance of the game when the evergreen Barreto earned a free-kick after a foul from Sushant Matthew.The Brazilian took the free-kick but it went off target much to relief of goalkeeper Gurpreet Sandhu and the thousands of East Bengal supporters.
The red and gold brigade, who were strangely wearing their changed strips of white jerseys and black shorts, had a penalty claim in the 9th minute when Alan Gow went down after a slight contact from Rakesh Masih. Referee Pratap Singh waved play on and later booked the Scotsman for play acting.
East Bengal’s brightest move in the first quarter came from a brilliant run from Penn who went past Zeleny inside the box but couldn’t find the target.
Mohun Bagan’s front three of Sunil Chhetri, Odafa Okolie and Jose Ramirez Barreto were looking to cause problems to the East Bengal defence and close to the 20th minute the Mariners were awarded a penalty.
Uga Okpara missed the flight of a long diagonal pass which allowed Sunil Chhetri to get behind and the India striker was brought down from behind by the big Nigerian defender.
The East Bengal players surrounded the referee with Okpara also getting a yellow card but Odafa kept his cool and successfully converted the spot-kick.
In the 27th minute, Bagan had a glorious chance to make it 2-0 when Odafa got the better of Okpara before setting up Barreto, who couldn’t hit the target from a very good position inside the box.
East Bengal tried to throw more bodies forward but they were lacking the cutting edge in the absence of Mehtab and Tolgay. Just before the halftime break Sanju found the side-netting from an indirect free-kick but there were no further goals in the first period as Mohun Bagan led 1-0 at the break.
Subrata Bhattacharya introduced Snehasish Chakraborty in place of Rakesh Masih at the start of the second half which strangely saw Barreto drop back into midfield alongside Jewel Raja.
The Mariners had the first real chance of the second half as Nabi had a free header from a Surkumar Singh free-kick but the Indian international headed wide.
After that it was all East Bengal for most of the second period as Bagan dropped more and more deep allowing East Bengal’s midfield plenty of space and time.
Vashum wasted a great opportunity to equalize in the 53rd minute when he was well picked out by a Naoba Singh cross from the right flank but the hero of the 2010 Federation Cup final missed the target.
Minutes later, Mohun Bagan custodian Sangram Mukherjee produced two vital saves in quick succession and both times from Sanju Pradhan. The veteran goalkeeper showed great reflexes much to the frustration of the East Bengal faithful inside the stadium.
Mohun Bagan hardly offered anything at the other end but Nabi did go on a fantastic solo run which eventually came to nothing as East Bengal defenders crowded him out.
Just before the 70-minute mark, Trevor Morgan’s side had another penalty shout when Alan Gow went down after contact from Zeleny but Pratap Singh only awarded a corner.
Coach Morgan brought on Baljit Sahni in place of Sushant Matthew as East Bengal went all out in search of the equalizer in the final twenty minutes.
Baljit could have easily had an almost instant impact as he got on the end of a Robin Singh header and had a clear sight of goal but the Punjabi lad’s weak effort was saved by the impressive Sangram Muhkerjee.
Minutes later, Sangram produced another fingertip stop, this time he prevented Robin’s Singh goal-bound effort from going into the back of the net. Strangely though, the referee awarded a goal-kick, nevertheless Bagan still had their slender lead.
At the other end, Sunil could have put the game to bed as he got behind the East Bengal backline after a lovely through pass from Odafa but the former East Bengal striker uncharacteristically squandered the chance.
Trevor Morgan made another substitution as Ravinder Singh came on for Sanju Pradhan but before the red and gold brigade could launch an assault in the dying stages, the floodlights inside the Salt Lake Stadium went off.
Play resumed after a delay of almost 20 minutes but East Bengal never really threatened to score after that as Mohun Bagan defended well.
The Mariners held on for a priceless win to move up to second in the I-League table while East Bengal are now eight points behind league leaders Dempo.