A disappointing Mohun Bagan were saved by former Trinidad and Tobago player Cornell Glen as they managed to hold arch-rivals East Bengal to a 1-1 draw in the much-anticipated Kolkata derby of the I-League in Kolkata on Saturday.
Nigerian Ranty Martins gave East Bengal the lead before Mohun Bagan pulled back through Glen as defending champions maintained their top spot in the table with seven points from three matches. East Bengal remained third with five points from three games.
Starting as favourites, Mohun Bagan dished out a lacklustre display in the first-half as East Bengal dominated the proceedings before Ranty Martins drew the first blood in the 63rd minute to break the deadlock in front of a strong turnout of 62,342.
A brilliant cross-field ball from left-half Bikash Jairu was met with superb agility by the all-time highest scorer in Indian national football league as helpless Bagan goalie Debjeet Majumdar had no answer to his deft placement.
Down by a goal, Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen finally brought in the in-form India forward Jeje Lalpekhula in place of Souvik Chakraborty in the 73rd minute, something that sped up their intensity.
Mohun Bagan finally arrested their slide in the 77th minute Glen’s powerful header from a Sony Norde free-kick brought the much awaited goal for the home side.
The Haitian recruit, who was brillianty marked by side-back Rahul Bheke throughout the match, finally came good from a 25-yard freekick and it was left for Glen to accomplish the job with his superb header that kissed East Bengal goalkeeper TP Rehenesh’s fingers before finding the back of the net.
Strange it may sound but Mohun Bagan coach Sen kept Jeje on the bench at the start as his strategy was a big letdown for Mohun Bagan who were on a two-match winning run and were tipped favourites to avenge their 0-4 defeat earlier this season, in the Kolkata League.
Their trump card in Norde too was a failure as he hardly was seen moving in with the ball with youngster Bheke doing a neat job in his left-back position as East Bengal coach Biswajit Bhattacharya’s strategy which turned out to be a masterstroke.
After a standout performance in the regulation time, After a standout performance in the regulation time, Bheke’s biggest moment came in the dying minutes of 90+1st minute when his last ditch acrobatic tackle denied Norde to get his name in the scoresheet and Mohun Bagan a grudge win.
It was Rehenesh save off Glen’s header that rebounded as the ball almost fell to Norde who was lurking in front but Bheke stood tall.
Mohun Bagan midfield looked very much lacklustre with little movement at all as the the opponents easily traversed through them and created more chances in a first-half dominated by East Bengal.
There was some gripping moves by both the teams but East Bengal kept Mohun Bagan on the toes in an entertaining first-half which however did not yield any goal.
The best chance of the first 45 minutes came in the injury time when East Bengal’s Under-22 quota player Abinash Ruidas with a lovely overlapping run down the left set up Dong and the South Korean’s anglular head went wide off the far post.
While Mohun Bagan’s midfield was a big letdown, their defence too experienced some edy moments with Pritam Kotal disappointing in a big way and it was their star Brazilian defender Luciano Sabrosa’s brilliant interception on more than one occasions that kept their scoresheet blank.
After the changeover, Mohun Bagan played with more intensity but East Bengal who went home with their heads held high snatching a point from the ‘favourites’.