In front of 62,629 roaring die-hards at Kolkata’s Saltlake Stadium, East Bengal rode on goals from Jaime Santos Colado and Jobby Justin, to win their second Kolkata Derby on the trot against archrivals Mohun Bagan and stay firmly in the race for the 12th I-League.
It was a characteristically scrappy affair for most parts of the big clash, but in the end, the quality of East Bengal’s attacking force had the final say as a ragged Bagan surrendered the game and by all accounts, any hopes of a second title win.
East Bengal dominated possession and all other key statistics of the game to remain in fourth place after 13 games, but are now just five behind leaders Chennai City FC. Mohun Bagan remain confined to the sixth spot with 21 points from 14 completed games.
It seemed initially that hosts Mohun Bagan had made just the one change to their starting line-up from their previous game, bringing in a fit now Pintu Mahata in place of Azharuddin Mallick.
However, just before kick-off, coach Khalid Jamil also had to crucially pull out Japanese holding midfielder Yuta Kinowaki due to injury and start forward Henry Kisseka instead.
East Bengal, who were officially the visiting side for the game, brought back Lalrindika ‘Didika’ Ralte, who had to miss the last game due to suspension, in place of Manoj Mohammad at the left wing-back position.
Jobby found an opening to score as early as the 6th minute of the game and the follow-up shot by Laldanmawia Ralte also went straight to keeper Shilton Paul, in the Mohun Bagan goal.
Mohun Bagan had two chances to score in the first half hour. First, when Dipanda Dicka came close in the 26th minute off a Sony Norde cross from the left, and then the Haitian star winger himself was in clear sight of goal half-way inside the East Bengal box, only to be thwarted by a determined Lalramchullova.
East Bengal were beginning to move well going forward. The pair of Jobby and Jamie combined for the first goal in the 35th minute of the game.
Kamalpreet started the move from the East Bengal defence, aiming for Justin on the right flank. The Kerala striker shrugged off Eze Kingsley’s challenge and drove inside the box, finding Colado with a neat cut back. The Spaniard controlled, made space with a deft body move to take out the Bagan defence and nailed a left-footer calmly past Shilton to give East Bengal the lead.
In the 53rd minute, Mohun Bagan seemed to have found the equaliser after a booming Eze Kingsley header off a Sony Norde corner, hit the bar and came back for Darren Caldeira to head towards Dicka’s foot, after which the ball went in. However, Dicka’s shot hit Darren Caldeira on the goal line, on its way in, and the linesman flagged offside.
The mercurial Jobby then scored his eighth goal of the campaign to take the game away from Mohun Bagan.
From a Didika corner in the 76th minute, the highest Indian goalscorer of the league rose like a phoenix in between Gurjinder and Dicka, manning the Mohun Bagan near post to execute a terrific glancing header into the net.
The Malayali striker was rightfully awarded the Hero of the Match for a sterling display.