Kolkata: Nothing can give more happiness to Bengali than an East Bengal vs Mohun bagan match and that too on a Sunday evening. One of football’s greatest rivalry squared off once again for the second time this year with Mohun Bagan taking away the honours 2-1 in an high-octane encounter at the Kanchenjungha Stadium in Siliguri.
Sony Norde (35) and Azharuddin Mallick (43) put Mariners in 2-0 lead in a space of seven minutes and continued their domination till East Bengal pulled one back in the dying moments through Borges. Their previous meeting ended in barren a draw and both these sides had a win in mind which would strengthen their case for the league title.
The atmosphere at the Kanchenjunga Stadium was absolutely electric as is expected of such a high-octane clash with the crowd slowly filling the stands. The Mariners went into the match with a 4-4-2 formation with Mallick on the right wing and Balwant Singh and Darryl Duffy up front. East Bengal opted for a 4-3-2-1 formation with Romeo Fernandes, who hasn’t featured in much games this season coming in place of Ralte for this encounter.
And Mohun Bagan dominated right from the word go. In the very first minute, the men in maroon showed their intent after Darryl Duffy had a go at the goal from about 35 yards from a Raju Gaikwad throw in. And three minutes later it was Sony Norde who pressed in hard with a cross which was safely defended by Ivan Bukenya. And from here on, the fans present at the ground knew that this match would definitely produce a winner.
And many predicted that it would be Mohun Bagan who would walk away with the win. And they weren’t wrong. After some pretty balanced play, Sony Norde, the man on whom all eyes were set, proved why he is so crucial to the Mariners after he broke the deadlock in the 35th minute with a stunner off his right foot that netted the ball in the far corner with East Bengal goalie Rehenesh having absolutely no chance to stop it.
And Trevor Morgan didn’t want to let it slip off so easily as he introduced Chris Payne into the game taking Ruidas off. But the men in red and gold still looked uncertain as Balwant almost netted in a free header before Gurwinder made the clearance.
And in the 43rd minute, a ball from Azhar was beautifully slided by Katsumi to a well-positioned Sony Norde who almost scored a second after Rehenesh let the ball go which was finally cleared by Gurwinder. A second goal for Mohun Bagan was on the cards and it didn’t take much time before Azhar deftly chipped in a ball by Duffy into the right post. And even before the half time, Mohun Bagan led their arch-rivals by a 2-0 margin.
With six minutes into the second half, East Bengal had their best chance in the match so far after Ivan Bukenya headed in one home before the ball was caught by Mohun Bagan goalie Debjit close to his chest.
And the pressure of such an important clash got the better of East Bengal striker Willis Plaza who, punched Anas Edathodika in the 66th minute and was rightfully shown a red card, which left his team with only 10 men on the pitch.
But that wasn’t enough as East Bengal had surrendered the all-important derby by a 2-1 margin. This loss would definitely dent their title hopes this season as Mohunbagan closed in on the gap with leaders Aizawl FC, having played a game less.
Before this match, Bengaluru FC sneaked in with a 1-0 victory against Aizawl which had opened up the Kolkata derby. Despite the result Aizwal remained on top with 30 points from 15 outings while East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, who were second and third before this match, swapped their positions. Mohun Bagan are now 29 from 14 matches while East Bengal stayed on 27 playing one match more than their arch-rivals.