Arch-rivals East Bengal and Mohun Bagan shared the spoils in the first Kolkata derby of the 2018/19 season. Pintu Mahato and Henry Kisekka had handed Mohun Bagan a 2-0 lead within the first 30 minutes of the match but Johnny Acosta and Ladanmawia’s strikes restored parity.
Costa Rican defender Johnny Acosta Zamora, who joined East Bengal after playing in the World Cup 2018, made his debut in the Kolkata Derby. Defensively the Costa Rican was a bit rusty but it has to be kept in mind that the player hardly had any pre-season training after the World Cup. The lack of match fitness was evident in his game but even then Johnny oozed class on his debut.
In a tale of two halves, the Mariners controlled the match in the first 45 minutes. They took advantage of East Bengal’s defensive mindset in the initial stage and hit them hard, taking a formidable two-goal lead within half an hour of the match.
Kamalpreet Singh’s nightmarish debut in Kolkata derby played to Mohun Bagan’s advantage as they exploited the gap which was created in the East Bengal’s central midfield. The former Minerva Punjab player remained clueless in a crucial position like defensive midfield.
But veteran tactician Subhash Bhowmick understood his team’s flaws soon and Lalrindika Ralte was introduced in place of Singh in the 40th minute. Ralte brought an instant impact in the match and East Bengal’s game started to look positive. Just minutes before the half-time whistle, Acosta pulled one back for his side.
Sankarlal Chakraborty's response was to throw in Mehtab Hossain early into the second half in order to nullify East Bengal’s continuous attacks. But Chakraborty’s planning went for a toss as the former East Bengal midfielder left the ground within two minutes of his arrival with a broken arm.
And then East Bengal equalised at the hour mark when Laldanmawia Ralte slotted the ball home from Lalrindika Ralte’s corner.
For Mohun Bagan, Pintu Mahato and Sourav Das were the standout performers. The two youngsters put in impressive shifts. While Mahato drew first blood in the match by scoring a fantastic goal, Sourav proved to be the workhorse on the pitch.
The two youngsters have grown a lot since last season and have become a crucial part of the Mariners’ squad this time. Pintu’s performance throughout the Calcutta Football League (CFL) has been impressive. His pacy runs down the flanks and his presence in the midfield adds an extra edge to Mohun Bagan’s attack.
Overall, an exhilarating derby saw the rivals share honours. It was a fitting result to an exciting clash as neither of the teams deserved to lose.