Norde and Mallick fire Mariners to decisive derby win…
Mohun Bagan took one step closer to the I-League title after a comfortable 2-1 win over rivals East Bengal in the Kolkata Derby at the Kanchenjunga Stadium, Siliguri. Thanks to two majestic goals from Sony Norde and Azharuddin Mallick, the Mariners leaped over East Bengal in the I-League standings and closed in on top spot after leaders Aizawl fumbled earlier on losing to Bengaluru FC.
In a fully packed stadium, The Mariners were the ones to start on the front foot as they almost took the lead in the first minute when Darryl Duffy’s shot sailed over the bar. Two minutes later, Balwant Singh found himself with yards of space ahead of him after being put through by Sony Norde but failed to make the most of it.
But East Bengal would come back after the rattling start, as they created a good opportunity in the 6th minute when Willis Plaza headed the ball down to Wedson Anselme, whose shot was deflected for a corner. The game’s tempo slowed down for some time, as both the sides cancelled each other out in the middle of the park.
Norde came to life in the 29th minute when his trickery almost created an opportunity for the Mariners as Balwant Singh hit a superb left-footed volley after receiving the ball on his chest but it went wide of the mark. The Haitian would win a free-kick in the 31st minute and he then proceeded to hit a beauty of a free-kick which no keeper could’ve saved. His perfect shot into the top left corner of the goal give the Mariners the lead.
East Bengal were rattled by that sudden goal and they tried to launch attacks but Bagan would not let them as they pushed on for more goals and almost got another with a scuffed header from Balwant and a shot being cleared off the line by Bengal’s defense.
But suddenly out of nothing in the 42nd minute, young winger Azharuddin Mallick hit a delightful chip from far out which the out-of-position Rehenesh couldn’t save and extended Bagan’s lead to two goals to take the game away from East Bengal. They almost extended the lead three minutes later, when Norde led out a beautiful pass to Balwant, whose cross was met by Duffy but the Scotsman had his shot saved by Rehenesh.
The Mariners deservedly went into the break with a 2-goal lead.
Highlights: Mohun Bagan 2-1 East Bengal
East Bengal started the second half on the attack as Trevor Morgan’s men launched attack after attack and almost pegged one back through Rowlin Borges but his header in the 51st minute was saved by Debjit Majumder. Bagan tried to get another goal with Sehnaj Singh’s attempt a few minutes later but his disappointing shot went over the goal.
Balwant also got a chance in the 62nd minute, when he controlled a long ball superbly on his chest but his couldn’t capitalize from it. But things soon got heated four minutes later, when influential attacker Willis Plaza was sent off for an off the ball incident and East Bengal’s hopes of getting back into the game were crushed.
But the Red and Gold tried to threaten the Mariners who looked comfortable protecting their lead, as Chris Payne took a powerful shot from yards out in the 68th minute but it went over the bar. He again found himself with a free-kick, but his thunderous attempt was saved well by Debjit.
The Red and Gold Brigade threw everything into trying to score goals but they couldn’t get anything past Debjit who was in superb on on the night. Wedson’s free-kick from a promising positon in the 88th minute was deflected off the wall for a corner as they tried everything to score against this stubborn Mohun Bagan side who just wouldn’t budge.
Although East Bengal would got a lifeline through a brilliant volley from Chris Payne into added time but it would be a case of too little, too late for them as they’re hopes of winning the I-League took a major dent with this defeat and the possibility of their rivals winning the league from this point is only insult to injury for the Red and Gold.
The Mariners now move onto 29 points with this win as they overtake East Bengal in the I-League standings and are just a point behind Aizawl FC with a game in hand.