Siliguri: The Mariners extend their unbeaten run to 11 games in the I-League while their arch-rivals continue to lead the standings.
The Kolkata derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in a Round 8 clash of the ongoing I-League has ended in a goalless affair at the Kanchanjangha Stadium, Siliguri, on Sunday evening.
Stalwart Mehtab Hossain did return to Trevor Morgan’s side after serving his one game suspension to appear in his 54th derby. On the other side, Sanjoy Sen made wholesale changes to his side from their mid-week AFC Cup qualifier. Debjit Majumder, Pritam Kotal, Eduardo Ferreira and Subhasish Bose came into the team.
As many as eight ‘derby debutants’ emerged from the tunnel. Four from each side settled the balance as the ‘visitors’ Mohun Bagan got the better chances in the opening twenty minutes.
The game was screaming of half-chances with proper end-to-end stuff displayed by both sides. However, it was discernible that neither of the cross-town rivals were really able to sniff out lapses in the opposition’s backline.
Rehenesh TP had to make up for his defenders’ mistakes by flexing his muscles to save a shot by Kotal right in front of his goal. The Mohun Bagan right back saw the chance from Sony Norde’s low-cross into the box directed towards Darryl Duffy but the Scot found it difficult to grasp the moment, instead falling on the path for Kotal on the farside.
The Bagan inquests continued as three on the left flank could not contain Norde who whipped in a cross for no one, moments before Ivan Bukenya successfully managed to hold off Katsumi Yusa’s charge into the box.
Willis Plaza opened the account in terms of shots on target for the well-backed Red and Golds. Robin Singh’s release for the Trinidadian between the legs of Pronay Halder saw Plaza lay it straight to Debjit Majumder’s gloves from a tight angle.
Former Sporting Clube de Goa left-back Subhasish Bose took a blow from his U-22 counterpart Nikhil Poojary and he had to stretchered off, returning a couple of minutes later much to the delight of the scarcely present Maroon and Green supporters.
Norde’s flag-kick sent Eduardo Ferreira’s shot glazing the side-netting but not before Rehenesh had parried it off safely.
Five minutes for the first-half to end, the want for goals became evident and there were two chances for both sides.
Plaza, twice assisted by Wedson Anselme, could not get past Kotal and Anas Edathodika. Katsumi’s counter-attack was launched towards Rehenesh by Jeje Lalpekhlua and the loose ball from Gurwinder Singh’s clearance saw Pronay Halder launch it straight into orbit.
The first half ended all square with nothing on the board but not before tempers arose as Lalrindika Ralte was spotted pushing Darryl Duffy and the East Bengal skipper walked into the tunnel with a booking.
Even though Mohun Bagan sniffed the first chance to net in post the breather, it was East Bengal all around.
Wedson Ansleme saw more of the ball in midfield as his distribution rarely saw any blips apart from the wingers and the striker wasting gilt edged opportunities inside the box.
In the 57th minute, Plaza missed an absolute sitter from a loose ball which was initially headed on by Robin Singh. Eduardo Ferreira was caught napping and Plaza’s attempted volley was parried off by Majumder.
Wedson was dragged onto the byline when he found space from Plaza’s cross. He was denied by three Bagan shirts and just a minute later, Robin’s header from a Ralte corner kick was not headed properly by the former Bengaluru FC striker.
Mehtab Hossain earned his fifth booking of the season in seven appearances. Robin and Jeje were both withdrawn, the latter for lack of impact as the last quarter of the game arrived.
Gurwinder Singh was able to continue his impressive run as he managed to see off two dangers within three minutes from Yusa’s counter and Duffy’s release into the box.
Narayan Das kept on whipping crosses as India coach Stephen Constantine looked on from the stands as he embarked upon selecting a squad for the Asian Cup qualifiers soon. The East Bengal left-back would have certainly made a case for himself given the plethora of options available in his position.
With only ten minutes to go, both teams turned wasteful as repeated incursions into the box yielded with shouts of aghast from the spectators.
Anselme put on a show for the onlookers in a real modestly insipid derby. His skill and trickery befuzzled almost all Bagan players including Norde who was taken off for Prabir Das; the Haitian failing to show his true colours in his fourth successive derby – flunging a chair out of the technical box in anger.
Three minutes of added time and as the clock ticked off, Ivan Bukenya came off with a vital interception from Duffy’s tap into the box as second-half substitute Balwant Singh sprinted off along open space.
Referee CR Srikrishna blew the whistle drawing curtains to yet another Kolkata Derby as both teams would be content in sharing points.
East Bengal will remain on top of the table, breaching the 20 point mark for the first time this season as Mohun Bagan still trail by three points in second place.