One would be forgiven for thinking they were watching the famed local derbies of Rome and Madrid on Sunday evening as city rivals Mohun Bagan and East Bengal squared off in the season’s first Kolkata derby at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan. With close to 100,000 spectators turning the stadium into a raucous cauldron with smoke billowing from the stands due to the heavy concentration of fireworks that would embarrass professional pyromaniacs, it was Mohun Bagan who carved out a 1-0 win.
While East Bengal dominated possession, they failed to enter the box for much of the first half while Mohun Bagan relied on ineffective counterattacks despite an impressive three-pronged attack consisting of Odafa Okolie, Sunil Chhetri and Jose Ramires Barreto. The only silver lining for The Mariners was Syed Rahim Nabi who rattled coach Trevor James Morgan’s team down the left flank.
Two early booking hurt the red-and-gold brigade — Scottish recruit Alan Gow saw yellow for a dive in the Bagan box in the 8th minute while centre-back Uga Okpara went down in the books ten minutes later for a challenge on Sunil Chhetri. Referee Pratap Singh pointed to the spot, the call appearing a tad harsh as the Nigerian appeared to have touched the ball first. Odafa made no mistake in giving Bagan the lead.
After the breather, Bagan had an opportunity to widen the gap when a freekick from the right found an unmarked Nabi.
East Bengal immediately had two good chances. In the 76th minute, Sangram Banerjee once again denied East Bengal an equaliser when he stopped Robin Singh’s effort.
At the other end, Chhetri missed a sitter a minute later.
At the final whistle, Bagan continued their upward rise, pulling five points clear off their foes and now lying three points behind league leaders Dempo.