Laldanmawia Ralte scored the winner for the Red and Gold in a five-goal affair.
East Bengal and Mohun Bagan met each other at a critical juncture of the I-league season on Sunday, in a fiery encounter that saw both teams play sensible football with a security-first approach. East Bengal dominated proceedings after conceding the first goal and won with inspired displays from Laldanmawia Ralte and Jobby Justin, who continued his good form. Mohun Bagan tried to wrestle back the initiative in the last 15, but to little effect on the points table.
Bagan drew first blood, with Omar Elhussieny sending a delightful ball in from the left to find the onrushing Azharuddin Mallick for an easy tap-in. Thereafter, it was all East Bengal. Alejandro Menendez’s side played some smart, attractive football with easy movement and sensible positioning in both the attacking and defensive halves of the pitch.
Laldanmawia Ralte scored twice, with Jobby Justin assisting once and scoring once. Ralte was easily one of the most influential players on the pitch, tirelessly running in whatever space the Bagan defenders afforded him. Dipanda Dicka converted a half-volley from outside the box, but it didn’t change much in the affair.
Here, we take a look at the five talking points that were prominently felt in Sunday’s derby:
5. East Bengal’s runs into the box troubled Mohun Bagan throughout
The Red and Gold Brigade were excellent throughout with their long-balls and cross-field passes
East Bengal were sensible on the ball, knowing full well that there wasn’t enough space in the opposition half to play the ball on the ground. Led by captain Lalrindika Ralte, the Reds-and-Golds played long-balls and cross-field passes sensibly, with ever-so-willing midfielder Laldanmawia Ralte making Kingsley Eze’s life difficult on a couple of occasions.
Santos Colado was also a pain in the neck, constantly shifting from the centre to the left side of the pitch. His runs and close control were certainly a treat for EB fans.
4. Omar Elhussieny isn’t Sony Norde
Sony Norde, the influential Bagan winger, was missing from the big derby and his presence was certainly missed. Egyptian Omar Elhussieny tried to push things the Haitian’s way, but a drastic change in position is not something everyone can cope with. Even though he assisted the first goal for the Mariners, Elhussieny wasn’t the best player on the pitch and looked absent for most of the game.
Naturally an attacking midfielder, it was too much to ask from the Giza born player. Working space around an on-your-heels Lalramchullova is difficult and certainly more so when you aren’t blessed with the swift ball techniques of a Norde. His wild free-kick was a testament to the fact that he never grew comfortable in the role.
3. East Bengal protected their lines well
Whenever Mohun Bagan attacked, for most of the game, East Bengal were game for it. They had their lines well covered, with Johnny Acosta displaying why he’s regarded as one of the smartest centre-backs in the league. Against a faster Dipanda Dicka and a burlier Henry Kisekka, Acosta held fort like a pro, displaying his world-class defending. He was covering the ball more than clearing and tackling it, eliminating the chances of opponents running in behind him.
Alongside the centre-backs, full-backs Manoj and Lalramchullova did not give enough space to the MB attackers, helping the team cover its lines well. Kassim Aidara, Lalrindika and Laldanmawia were also willing contributors time and again and defended smartly for the side.
2. It was Mohun Bagan’s loss more than East Bengal’s win
Like the recent poll results in India, it was more of the dominant force losing ground than the challengers gaining it. Bagan weren’t abysmal, but they just couldn’t be as clinical as they would have wanted to be. Midfielders Sourav Das and Yuta Kinowaki should have supported the striking pair of Dicka-Kisekka with more forward runs on second-balls, but the pair sat back in a bid to deny the opposition space.
Meanwhile, there wasn’t any real support from the wings either, with a cross coming in every once in a while. This certainly helped Menendez’s men get more breathing space.
1. A day of pairs – hit and miss
Unlike their opponents, Bagan couldn’t form any good and stable partnerships on the field
What a ball it was from striker Jobby Justin to find Landanmawia Ralte for the first goal. And what a finish it was from Justin again – from a Danmawia ball this time – for the second goal. This pair worked well and in sync, as Santos Colado kept pulling defenders towards himself, creating space for the Indian pair to score and assist a goal apiece. Defensively, Acosta and Borja Gomez kept things tight.
Sadly, none such pair worked well for the Mariners, who were the visitors for the encounter. Kisekka and Dicka tried a little too much, Eze earned a red, while Kinowaki-Sourav did not add too much to the weak attacking threat of the Green-and-Maroons. A game of hits and misses, for pairs.