Having outrun, outthought and outplayed Mohun Bagan for most of the match, East Bengal won their 34th Kolkata league title here on Thursday evening. East Bengal coach Trevor Morgan can now focus on his family satisfied that he has signed off in some style.
The section of the Salt Lake stadium that seated East Bengal fans were chanting only one name during the match. It was of their coach of the past three seasons. Morgan acknowledged that in the 75th minute and after the game shook hands with his players, those of Mohun Bagan and hugged some of them. Another show of appreciation to the crowd, who by now had lit paper torches and Morgan was inside.
Later, Morgan said he was almost overwhelmed. “Nearly 50,000 people chanting my name probably happened once when I was a player. Unfortunately there will be no change in my decision but this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said at his last media conference as East Bengal coach.
By putting Penn Orji in the hole and playing Cavin Lobo where Orji usually does, Morgan presented Mohun Bagan with a problem they couldn’t solve. That gave Edeh Chidi the freedom to strut his stuff and, boy, didn’t he enjoy himself! In the 36th minute, he hit the upright with a free-kick. For the third goal, he fell after a tackle from Biswajit Saha, got up, fell again after Aibor Khongjee challenged him, got up again before producing a left-footer that gave Shilton Paul no chance.
It summed up Mohun Bagan's night. True, Karim Bencherifa had a number of injury worries to battle but never did Mohun Bagan look like they needed to win this match for their first title since the Kolkata league in 2009. Bencherifa was man enough to accept that.
Okolie Odafa kept them in the game with a superb free-kick. It was the kind of goal, at the near post swerving around the ‘wall’, deserving a round of applause from even the opposition. The Mohun Bagan skipper won the free-kick after Mehtab Hossain needlessly held him when Uga Okpara seemed to have had all angles covered.
By the time Tolgay Ozbey volleyed home the second, both teams may have been playing for time. Mohun Bagan had conceded twice by the 29th minute and were prevented further embarrassment by the framework which denied East Bengal twice in the first half.
East Bengal had the first chance, the first corner-kick, looked sharper on the break and more resolute at the back. Mohun Bagan, forced into a 20th minute substitution because Celestine Anyichie’s injury didn’t look to have healed enough to merit a place in the starting 11, seemed to depend too much on Odafa, kept losing the ball in the midfield and, as a consequence, struggled at the back.
Result: East Bengal 3 (Chidi, 23; 72; Orji 29) Mohun Bagan 2 (Odafa 39; Ozbey 90+2).