East Bengal Club edged past Mohammedan Sporting Club 2-1 at the Saltlake Stadium on Tuesday evening to move up to the seventh spot in the Airtel I-League table.
James Moga’s opener was cancelled out by Mohammedan’s Taro Hasegawa in the first half but Edeh Chidi settled this entertaining encounter with a late winner in the second period.
The result keeps Mohammedan Sporting in the bottom two with 18 points from 17 outings while East Bengal are now 11 behind league leaders Bengaluru FC and still have three games in hand.
Most Kolkata derbies in this season’s I-League have been cagey affairs but this one was a lively contest from the very first whistle with both sides looking to score early.
Both teams created half chances but the first real save of the game came from Luis Barreto as he did well to parry away Moga’s long-range freekick.
Just a few minutes later, the deadlock was broken after some nice interplay between East Bengal’s two foreign strikers as Chidi’s flick was missed completely by Mehrajuddin Wadoo, allowing Moga to go clean through and score past Barreto.
The goal gave East Bengal momentum with the pairing of Chidi and Moga looking dangerous.
Reacting to his team’s problems, Mohammedan coach Sanjoy Sen replaced young Monirul Mondal with Japanese Hasegawa and the black and whites were slightly fortunate not to concede a penalty when Nirmal Chettri appeared to have pushed Chidi inside the box.
Just after the half-hour mark, East Bengal suffered a big blow when Nigerian central defender Uga Okpara had to come off with an injury.
Almost immediately after Okpara’s withdrawal, Mohammedan equalised through Hasegawa, who caught Robert Lalthlamuana napping after a cross from Dhanarajan and headed past Abhijit Mondal.
Mohammedan ended the half strongly as they looked to capitalise further on the absence of Okpara in the East Bengal backline but they didn’t really test Abhijit.
The IFA Shield and Durand Cup holders were on the front foot at the start of the second half also and had a penalty shout when Penn Orji’s shot hit Raju Gaikwad’s hand.
Syed Rahim Nabi also went close for Mohammedan but they had a big setback when Brazilian centre-back Luciano Sobrosa went off injured.
Mohammedan continued to look dangerous going forward and were unfortunate to not go in front when Josimar’s powerful shot rattled the woodwork.
That bit of luck brought East Bengal to life with Ryuiji Sueoka nearly finding the target after a nice team move.
It was end-to-end action for the final half hour but East Bengal looked more likely to score next as Chidi narrowly missed the target while Naoba Singh’s chip hit the post.
East Bengal finally scored the winner when Chidi controlled Shylo Malswamtluanga’s cross inside the box and found the back of the net with a cool finish.
Mohammedan Sporting pressed hard for the equaliser but the red-and-gold brigade held on for their first victory in four I-League fixtures.
(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)