Mohun Bagan AC defeated Kingfisher East Bengal by the slimmest of margins in the first Kolkata Derby of the 2017/18 Hero I-League at the refurbished Vivekananda Yuvabharati Krirangan (Saltlake Stadium) in Kolkata on Sunday.
Kingsley Eze Obumneme scored from a Sony Norde flag-kick in the 39th minute, which the Mariners managed to keep a hold off until the full-time whistle.
Both sides made three changes to the starting lineups from their last outings. Yuta Kinowaki was passed fit with Arijit Bagui and Naro Hari Shrestha gave a run out in the crunch game. Azharuddin Mallick failed a fitness test in the morning and Chesterpaul Lyngdoh was not even included in the matchday squad. Khalid Jamil stuck to his 4-1-4-1 formation but the experienced duo of goalkeeper Luis Barreto and defender Gurwinder Singh were ushered in Laldanmawia Ralte was fit to feature from the start. India internationals Mohammed Rafique and Salam Ranjan Singh failed to make the cut on the bench as well.
Ansumama Kromah and Aser Dipanda tried to take early advantage of the home side but East Bengal remained resolute. However, the young Mehtab Singh was taken off for Lalramchullova early in the game after he was booked for a foul on Sony Norde. Naro Hari Shrestha’s outing too was cut short by the introduction of Shaikh Faiaz, all before the half-hour mark.
In the 33rd minute, Kingsley headed in from Sony Norde’s flag-kick which Barreto parried off but also hit the post, only to frustrate the Green and Maroon brigade. However, the goal did arrive six minutes later in a similar fashion when the Nigerian defender made sure he broke the deadlock, that too against the coach whom he shared a dressing room in Aizawl in a title-winning last season.
Right after the break, Jamil switched strategies. By sacrificing a midfielder in Armand Bazzoau, he brought on Charles De Souza to partner Willis Plaza upfront, changing to a 4-4-2.
Last season’s Golden Boot winner, Aser Dipanda’s time on the field was cut short by a blow he suffered from a knock with Kingfisher East Bengal’s Eduardo Ferreira soon after the resumption of the game and was later taken to the hospital.
Katsumi Yusa, facing his old side was unable to inspire his forwards but his ferocious curling freekick in the 65th minute had almost sent the Kingfisher East Bengal fans smiling but it fell inches wide.
Shilton Paul and Kingsley showed immense maturity to stop all East Bengal attacks with the keeper even pulling off a delectable shot off Laldanmawia Ralte’s angled shot to keep Mohun Bagan in the game.
Both sets of forwards had an average day at the office and it was epitomized by Sony Norde’s miss in the dying embers of the game.
Sanjoy Sen’s side managed to hold on to the scoreline which saw them open their win tally and take them to the third position on the table with four points. Khalid Jamil was unable to change his shoddy record of facing Sen in away game but they now travel to face Shillong Lajong on 9th December. The upbeat Mariners host Churchill Brothers Goa SC the next day at home.