A wonderful Lalrindika Ralte strike was all that separated the two Kolkata big wigs allowing The Red and Golds first blood in the Kolkata derby...The much anticipated Kolkata derby ended in a 1-0 victory for East Bengal over Mohun Bagan at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday evening. A sublime strike from Lalrindika Ralte in the 73rd minute was enough to separate the two teams.
Mohun Bagan started off with Kingshuk Debnath being deployed in a holding midfield role and Odafa Okolie playing in the hole with Eric Muranda as the lone forward. CS Sabeeth and Yusa Katsumi flanked Odafa on the left and right respectively in what was akin to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
East Bengal meanwhile played with Ryuji Sueoka and Chidi Edeh upfront with James Moga relegated to the bench. Lalrindika Ralte and Harmanjot Khabra played on either wing with skipper Mehtab Hossein and Cavin Lobo playing in central midfield.
The Mariners should have taken the lead in the sixth minute of the match itself when Odafa Okolie played a perfectly timed through ball for Muranda which the Nigerian somehow inexplicably missed, shooting straight at Abhijit Mondal. Katsumi Yusa tried to curl in the rebound at the far corner, only for Uga Okpara to clear.
Bagan's skipper was at it again just about six minutes later when another similar through ball was aimed at Muranda only for the alert Abhijit Mondal to come out and grab the ball. In the 26th minute Saumik Dey who played down the East Bengal left flank, almost made a hash of a regulation clearance and somehow prevented the lurking Sabeeth from exploiting the opportunity.
The other time Karim's wards came close was another Odafa ball which picked out Katsumi down the right, whose quick burst of pace almost left Naoba Singh stranded but the full-back recovered in time to thwart the danger.
However, the away side had a chance late in the half to stream into the lead as Ryuji Suoeka pulled off a Muranda. The Japanese was clean through after a lovely lofted through ball by Lalrindika Ralte from his own half which beat Aibor in the air. Like Eric Muranda though, Sueoka shot straight to Shilton, wasting the chance.
The tempo in the second half picked up as both teams wanted to go for the kill. It was at the hour mark that Mohun Bagan wasted yet another opportunity as the dynamic Pritam Kotal picked out Odafa in the box with an inch perfect cross but the Mariners' skipper's header was straight at Abhijit Mondal.
Odafa was at it again as he decided to take on the entire East Bengal defense on his own and somehow managed to trudge past atleast four Red and Gold shirts, but his final shot let him down as it was again straight to Abhijit who held on.
Against the run of play it was Armando Colaco's wards who took the lead and Mohun Bagan cannot say that they did not have this coming. An ideal sucker punch, Chidi found Ralte about thirty yards off with the Bagan defense not sensing any immediate danger. What followed was a world class strike as he took one touch and let rip a belter at the far post beating Shilton all ends up.
The Red and Golds could have extended the lead just ten minutes before time when Ryuji Sueoka broke through the Bagan midfield at pace and continued his run, but instead of picking out James Moga who was clean through, he tried his hand but shot hopelessly wide.
At the dying minutes of the match Chidi Edeh wanted to do a Ralte as he pulled the trigger from the left only to see it go wide, while half the stadium thought that was in. In spite of pushing more men forward, Mohun Bagan failed to get the much needed equaliser allowing Armando Colaco and East Bengal pick up the first derby win of the season.
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