East Bengal won the bragging rights of the Kolkata Derby after 988 days as they defeated cross-town rivals Mohun Bagan 3-2 in the 2018-19 I-League at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday.
Laldanmawia Ralte and Jobby Justin were the heroes for the Red and Golds on the evening as Azharuddin Mallick's opener went in vain and Aser Dipanda managed a consolation after Bagan captain Eze Kingsley was sent off.
New signing Jaime Colado slotted right into the hole behind sole striker Jobby Justin. 2018 World Cupper Johnny Acosta made a comeback into the centre of defence as Salam Ranjan Singh dropped back to the bench.
With Sony Norde and Pintu Mahata ruled out, there were two changes for Mohun Bagan as well. Azharuddin Mallick and Aser Dipanda came back into the mix as the Mariners returned to action after a fortnight's rest.
It was quite a start in front of a near-packed stadium. East Bengal fans were treated to some agile footwork from debutant Colado. The 23-year had also set up Lalrindika Ralte inside the box in the first ten minutes itself but the East Bengal captain blasted over the bar.
The tide changed quickly as Mohun Bagan drew first blood. Omar Elhusseiny was engaged in a duel with Lalram Chullova on the left flank. He duly won the contest and sent in a searing ball into the box.
Azharuddin ran into space from behind an unassuming Manoj Mohammad and the 21-year-old finished off with panache in front of an empty net with his left foot.
Bagan's lead was not to stay very long as the Red and Golds equalised within a few minutes through Laldanmawia Ralte.
Linesman J Tony rightly refused to raise the flag for offside as Justin released Danmawia inside the box. The Mizoram-born squeezed the ball past Sankar Roy and levelled matters inside twenty minutes.
The game turned a bit scrappy as both sides sought to achieve composure. The only clear chance of the first half apart from the goals fell for Justin whose indecisiveness cost him a potential goal.
The 25-year-old Keralite made amends right before the half-time whistle. Colado played the ball back to Manoj from the throw-in who crossed into the box.
Yuta Kinowaki and Eze Kingsley were caught watching the ball as Justin's overhead back-volley into the net sunk Bagan hearts for the first time in the game.
The match-defining moment came right around the hour mark. Kingsley, already on a yellow card grappled Justin on the run and was given his marching orders and with thirty minutes to go, Mohun Bagan were down to ten men.
From the ensuing freekick, Lalrindika Ralte whipped an inswinger that Danmawia headed home after he himself got a rebound off the 'keeper.
Despite having the numerical advantage, East Bengal were not able to keep the two-goal cushion as the defence came undone in the final quarter of an hour.
Arijit Bagui's cross was headed down by Borja Gomez but right into Dipanda's path and the Cameroonian striker took the gift and slammed the ball home with aplomb.
Sheikh Faiaz then appealed for a penalty after being challenged by Gomez but referee Venkatesh R deemed the winger to take the fall too easily.
In the dying embers of the game, Justin could have easily made it 4-2 after being one-on-one with the 'keeper but he comically hit it towards the sole person guarding the Bagan post.
With the victory, East Bengal rose to fifth on the league table with 12 points in their kitty - three more than Bagan, who remained on 8th, two places off the drop zone.
Mohun Bagan have a quick away trip to Minerva Punjab on Wednesday while East Bengal pay a visit to Churchill Brothers the day after.