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I-League: Mohun Bagan, East Bengal bank on untested imports in Kolkata derby

East Bengal will look to avenge their last month’s defeat when they face a beleaguered Mohun Bagan in the return leg of the Kolkata Derby fixture in the I-League on Sunday.

football Updated: Jan 20, 2018 22:19 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
I-League,Mohun Bagan,East Bengal
Mohun Bagan face East Bengal in the I-League Kolkata Derby on Sunday.(AIFF)

That a lot could hinge on untested imports in what is the most watched match of the I-League indicates that Mohun Bagan and East Bengal’s campaigns haven’t gone swimmingly this term.

Mohun Bagan’s Akram Moghrabi and Dudu Omagbemi of East Bengal are both 32 and haven’t played competitive football in a while. Moghrabi played for Lebanese club Nejmeh SC last month and Omagbemi, who has been part of Champions League qualifier, hasn’t taken the field for over one year.

But given that India’s oldest clubs operate in the came-saw-conquered mode when it comes to seeking returns on investment on imports, these attacking players are expected to hit the ground running in Kolkata on Sunday afternoon.

Mohun Bagan and East Bengal fielding two foreigners debuting for the season in a Kolkata derby hasn’t happened in their past 320 encounters spread over 96 years.

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In a competition where teams can field five foreigners including an Asian primarily because Mohun Bagan and East Bengal wanted it that way, it is ironic that both have been found wanting in that area.

For Mohun Bagan, it is particularly bad because midfielder Cameron Watson is only two matches old and was off football for over two months before playing against Aizawl FC. And Sony Norde is out for the season with a leg injury he aggravated last month. The Haiti international has lasted less than four games and to say Mohun Bagan have looked wobbly without him would be an understatement. Also injured is Japanese midfielder Yuta Kinowaki who was a major influence in the I-League’s first Kolkata derby which Mohun Bagan won 1-0.

Striker Dipanda Dicka shares the top-scorer’s spot with East Bengal’s Katsumi Yusa and Chennai City FC’s Jean Joachim but two of his five goals have come from penalties. And though the derby in December was won by Kingsley Eze’s header, he hasn’t looked sure at the heart of the defence.

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East Bengal swapped misfiring Brazilian Charles de Souza for Nigerian Omagbemi. Trinidad and Tobago international Willis Plaza is struggling for form and that has left attacking medios Yusa and 35-year-old Mahmoud Amnah with a lot to do.

But they haven’t lost since the derby and full points on Sunday could help them share the top spot on 22 points with Minerva Punjab FC who, however, have two games in hand. “We are better organised now and there really should be no excuses tomorrow,” said Yusa who will team up with Omagbemi after playing together for Mohun Bagan in 2017.

Mohun Bagan’s season has gone south after the derby win and they have won only one of their last six games to be on 13 points after nine rounds.

“Our target is to return to winning ways which will put us back in the title race,” said Mohun Bagan coach Sankarlal Chakraborty who could miss goalie Shilton Paul due to illness.

First Published: Jan 20, 2018 22:00 IST