Superb goals from Sony Norde and Azharuddin Mallick helped Mohun Bagan beat a 10-man East Bengal 2-1 here on Sunday and come within one point of I-League leaders Aizawl FC with a game in hand. Rowlin Borges’ left-foot volley helped East Bengal pull one back in second-half stoppage time.
After 14 games, Mohun Bagan are on 29 points, overtaking East Bengal, who stay on 27 after their fourth loss. Both Aizawl FC and East Bengal have played 15 games.
This was the first time since 2000 that Mohun Bagan have beaten East Bengal, whose hopes of a maiden I-League seem all but over, outside Kolkata.
In a match that was stopped twice because missiles were thrown, East Bengal were staring at defeat at the Kanchenjunga Stadium when Willis Plaza was shown the red card in the 67th minute for hitting Mohun Bagan central defender Anas Edathodika on the face.
Since joining Mohun Bagan in 2014, Norde has won an I-League and a Federation Cup in successive seasons but hadn’t stamped his class in a derby. The Haiti international more than made up for that with a right-foot free-kick from 20 yards that arrowed into the side-netting on the far post giving East Bengal goalie TP Rehenesh no chance.
The free-kick was won by Norde although it is debatable whether Romeo Fernandes illegally stopped him from turning. But that wasn’t the first time East Bengal had conceded free-kicks in dangerous areas.
Late in the first half, Norde sliced through the right side of East Bengal, found a teammate who passed to Darryl Duffy whose snap right-foot flick was saved by Rehenesh. Early in the second half, he ran rings around right-back Rahul Bheke. As East Bengal chased the game, Norde found stretches of unmarked territory of the kind he never had in derbies so far. He was adjudged Hero of the Match.
Mallick’s cheeky chip
Young Mallick too showed a touch of class. Working down the right flank, he may have noticed Rehenesh off his line and, with East Bengal skipper and left-back Robert Lalthlamuana slightly late in closing him, the under-22 wide player essayed a chip that grazed the bracket at the top corner and went in.
Mallick, 19, has been one of the players judiciously used by Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen who has had to rotate the squad to deal with a heavy schedule. Playing for India striker Jeje Lalpekhlua, he had done well against Bengaluru FC and even played a part of the AFC Cup game this week.
East Bengal started the second half briskly but lost the one thing they needed most while trying to overcome a 0-2 deficit --- poise. It led to Trinidad and Tobago international Plaza being shown the red card and central defender Gurwinder Singh and substitute striker Chris Payne booked.
Coach Trevor Morgan had rung in the changes, drafting in Romeo Fernandes and Borges and giving Abhinash Ruidas a run out. He even changing the shape of his attacking ‘diamond’ by getting Borges and Mehtab Hossain to play in front of the back four and starting with three midfielders. It yielded nothing.
Result: Mohun Bagan 2 (Norde 35th; Azharuddin 43rd) bt East Bengal 1 (Borges 90+2)