Saturday, January 23, 2016 Report by
The Clash of Titans ended in a Stalemate
The biggest football match in India ended with a 1-1 draw as both the Kolkata giants left the field with shared point and honors. Mohun Bagan went to the match as firm favorite as their fancied attacking line up was reinforced with the addition of Haitian star Sony Norde. On the other hand, East Bengal started the match in a much underwhelming way as many of their key players were ruled out due to injuries and their top buy of the season French international Bernard Mendi was yet to reach the city. But before a 80,000 strong crowd, it was East Bengal who started the match on a brighter note. Experienced gaffer Biswajeet Bhattacharya made many changes to the squad hat played out a 0-0 draw against Mumbai FC last week. Both side backs Robert and Samad Ali Mallick made ways for veteran Soumik Dey and Rahul Bheke. In the midfield Mohammed Rafique replaced experienced Harmonjit Singh Khabra who was not fully fit to get a start and talented winger Abhinas Ruidas was deployed at the wing as u22 player.
In their previous two matches, Bagan started all guns blazing and literally knocked their opposition out of the contention before the lemon break. But on Saturday, Bagan front men faced much stiffer challenge from red and yellow defense ably led by Bagan’s hero of last year’s triumph, Bello Razzaq. The top poacher of ongoing league Cornel Glen was not given a free inch and his strike partner Balwant Singh-who replaced Azharuddin Mallick early in the match-too could not send tremor across the defense. Bagan’s Haitian star Sony Norde too was closely marked by Rahul Bheke and probably the lack of match fitness dented the morale of Norde. On the other end of the pitch, at left flank, Bikash Jairu was a livewire who gave Bagan side back Pritam Kotal a very tough time. More than once, he did dance past Kotal n wrecked havoc in Bagan’s box. At the midfield, Rafique ran like a well-oiled machine,leaving not an inch to Bagn midfield. Bagan’s defensive medio Pronoy Haldar too had a similar game as he made many key interceptions at the heart of the field.
East Bengal was awarded a flurry of corners but they failed to make much of these set pieces. On the other hand, the individual brilliance of Sony Norde and Cornel Glen created a few half chances for Bagan but red and yellow defense was too solid to make a dent at. The glorious chance to surge ahead fell to East Bengal’s latest sensation Do Dong who went precariously close to head a ball home when a measured cross was sent in from right flank. But the korean’s header missed the woodwork by a whisker.
The match came back to life on the other side of lemon break as both the teams had shown greater intent to break the deadlock. Cornel Glen was fed a brilliant through ball by Katsumi Usha but the ex-world cupper made a very docile attempt at goal. Do Dong, once he was shifted to his favorite winger position, started to cause problem for Bagan defense. In one occasion, he danced past three Bagan defenders and invited a great save by Debjeet Majumder. Minutes later, in a devastating counter attack, East Bengal went ahead as Jairu’s measured cross found Ranty Martins at the box. The all time top scorer of I league made no mistake as he hit the ball sweet and bulged the net leaving Majumder unmoved.
The goal made the match more open as Bagan gaffer Sanjoy Sen brought in Indian star forward Jeje in pursuit of equalizer. Meanwhile, Debjit Majumder pulled off another amazing save to thwart Ranty Martin’s swinging freekick.Bagan forwards pressed harder and finally they drew the level thanks to a momentary lapse of concentration by East Bengal defense. East Bengal was awarded a free kick at the the half of Mohun Bagan but Dong back passed it to Rahul Bheke who floundered it and gave the possession back to chasing Katsumi. Desperate East Bengal defense conceded at the edge of top box and Sony Norde sent a brilliant curler to find Glen’s head. Even the outstretched hands of T.P. Rehenesh could not fend off the shot and much to the relief of Bagan supporters, parity as restored at the 77th minute of the match. After scoring the all important equalizer, Bagan mounted pressure on red and gold box for last 15 minutes or so.
Much against run of the play, East Bengal was awarded a free kick at the edge of the box and the sight of the Do Dong coming to take the free kick must have set the butterflies fluttering at the stomach of Bagan supporters. Do Dong’s measured shot missed the woodwork by an inch and that was the last contribution of Dong before he was substituted.
Bagan got a golden opportunity to deliver a knockout punch at the 93rd minute of the match when Glen muscled past Bello to go for a free header. East Bengal custodian Rehenseh probably pulled off the save of his life by jumping onto his right n fisted the ball away. However, danger was not fully over as Norde looming in the box pounced on the ball but was effectively blocked by Rahul Bheke. With this, referee blew off his whistle and came down the curtains on the most dramatic football match of India. After the match Bagan remains top at the table and East Bengal at number 3 position trailing behind just two points.