Both sides had to share the spoils in the game on Sunday afternoon.

Mohun Bagan and East Bengal cancelled each other out in a frustrating 0-0 draw in the first Kolkata derby of the 2019/20 footballing calendar at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday. VP Suhair had two promising opportunities to open the scoring in both the halves, but failed to put the ball into the back of the nets.

The Red and Gold Brigade were relatively quiet in testing Debjit Majumder’s goal and failed to create a big chance throughout the ninety minutes. They now sit in the 4th position in the Calcutta Football League, while the Mariners are in the eighth position. Here are the talking points for the game.

5. Did Marti Crespi have his best performance in an East Bengal shirt so far?

Marti Crespi started in his first-ever Kolkata derby, slotting in for Borja Gomez Perez, not registered for the competition. Despite being occasionally shaky in recent matches, the former Delhi Dynamos man looked anything but unnerved by the environment at the Salt Lake Stadium. He asserted control early on, distributing the ball smartly and making some impressive recovery challenges.

The Spaniard also kept Suhair quiet for most of the game, but was lucky to see him scuff both chances. Nonetheless,  Crespi’s confident work and crucial clearances to avert danger definitely upped his reputation among the fans. As East Bengal move into the I-League, Crespi’s encouraging performance will boost both his own and Alejandro Menendez’s confidence.

4. Is Lalram Chullova Mohun Bagan’s best domestic signing this season?

So after controversially switching sides in the summer, Lalram Chullova was the man under the spotlight in the Kolkata derby on Sunday. Slotting into the left-back role in Mohun Bagan, he proved why the Mariners were so interested in his services. The Mizo wing-back changed the dynamic of their defensive approach, oozing confident on his side and making his back-line a more compact one.

Not only did he put in some superb challenges to keep Pintu Mahata nullified on his side, but the way he marched forward to compliment Naorem shows the beginning of a potentially fruitful partnership. Going by his defensive solidity and influential aura, Chullova will get only better and can perhaps turn out as the Mariners best business this summer.


3. Were East Bengal too conservative with their approach in the Derby?

While the intensity of a Kolkata derby was also visible in this encounter which unfortunately ended in a goalless draw, East Bengal didn’t have that attacking kick they usually do in such big occasions. Alejandro Menendez went with a relatively experienced attacking unit, but they failed really test the Mariners stern defensive line.

The Red and Gold Brigaders just weren’t quick enough on the counter-attack, nor did they be able to work their way into creating chances. Apart from a few chances to test Debjit Majumder, they couldn’t really make good use of their possession. While it’s still early days in the season, this drab affair probably gives Menendez some pointers about the potential weaknesses to solve in his side.

2. Should Kibu Vicuna have introduced Salva Chamorro later into the game?

In a somewhat cautious approach, Kibu Vicuna decided to shift up his approach and go with a new-found 4-3-3 system which upgraded Joseba Beitia into a playmaker role. Sk Sahil played as the industrious midfielder and Fran Gonzalez was included for that added bite in midfield. However, this meant Salva Chamorro had to be sacrificed.

Suhair did no favours to himself by scuffing two promising chances, which Chamorro could’ve potentially finished off. However, Vicuna surprised many by not bringing the Spaniard on at all. In a game when there were multiple dangerous crosses flung in from the wing, he could’ve been the deciding factor. Despite Menendez later bringing on Jaime Colado, Kibu went with his instincts and oversaw a frustrating draw in his Kolkata derby debut.

1. Both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have ways to go to become prime I-League contenders

This was incidentally the first goalless Kolkata derby between these sides since their goalless draw in the I-League derby in February 2017. That season, the Mariners came mighty close on the  I-league and only lost it by one point to Aizawl FC.  East Bengal also finished third and were contenders throughout, but winning the upcoming edition currently seems bleak for either side. They still need much to do in bringing an unpredictable side to their play, which is too one-dimensional currently.

Obviously the remainder of the CFL is there along with a few more pre-season games, but both sides need to amplify their output in the field. They must finish their chances better, bring more creativity in their game and effectively amplify their work-rate. Durand Cup winners Gokulam Kerala and semi-finalists Real Kashmir already reiterated their chase for the title this season. Unless both Kolkata giants bring more consistency to their game, they could come up short once again.