The East Bengal FC vs Mohun Bagan AC contest had a mélange of nationalities but Sunday’s goalless draw in an I-League match would probably have left national coach Stephen Constantine pleased most.
That’s because a number of new Indian players caught the eye in the Kolkata derby of the 10th I-League and East Bengal’s shot stopper TP Rehenesh was adjudged Man of the Match, perhaps for his efforts at denying Souvik Chakraborty, Sony Norde and Pritam Kotal which ensured that Mohun Bagan now haven’t won a derby in nearly two years.
There was Anas Edathodika who looked sure at the heart of Mohun Bagan’s defence. With Arnab Mondal and Sandesh Jhingan not fit and with an Asian Cup qualifier away to Myanmar next month, Edathodika did his cause no harm. As did East Bengal central defender Gurwinder Singh.
Playing his first derby, Mohun Bagan’s under-22 left-back Subhasish Bose may have given India left-back Narayan Das at the other end a cause for worry even though all wingbacks showed a reluctance to go on the overlap. Chakraborty marshalled Mohun Bagan’s central midfield well and once beat two players to fire a shot on goal.
Mohun Bagan’s shot-stopper Debjit Majumder too showed he could be counted on. He looked sure with aerial balls and twice in the second half pulled off two one-on-one saves. The first was off Willis Plaza in the 57th minute and the second, in the 83rd, didn’t give Wedson Anselme a chance.
What could worry Constantine is that Jeje Lalpekhlua looked off-colour. He was substituted by Balwant Singh in the 76th minute.
The foreign players promised a lot but came up short when needed most. Barring taking on three players once, Norde looked subdued and substituted in the 86th minute. His friend in the opposition, Anselme, showed he is comfortable with the ball but not in the areas East Bengal would have wanted him to.
The setting was perfect for East Bengal. Red-and-yellow shirts outnumbered those in Mohun Bagan colours. From the morning, you could hear shouts of “East Bengal, East Bengal” around the stadium and see their fans flocking eateries and hotels around the Kanchenjunga stadium here. But even though this was their home game, Mohun Bagan began better.
That East Bengal’s first corner-kick came in the 53rd minute tells its own story. Mohun Bagan had four in the first half. From the third, Norde’s shot was parried by Rehenesh but Eduardo Ferreira’s tap took a deflection and went out. Soon after, on the break Mohun Bagan outnumbered East Bengal but couldn’t capitalise on it due to Katsumi Yusa releasing Darryl Duffy much later than he should have.
East Bengal did better in the second half but Majumder ensured that their winning run of six games would stop. After eight games they lead the standings with 20 points; Mohun Bagan are second on 17 from seven games.