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I-League

Top five Kolkata Derbies of all-time

Written by: Abhranil Roy

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On the eve of the season's second clash between the arch-rivals we take a look at some of the classic encounters to have featured the teams. 

Colloquially termed as the “Boro Match,” the Kolkata Derby is steeped in history and like any other derby, has a lot of political, social and historical significance to it. In fact, according to the World Football magazine, it is amongst the top 50 Derbies in the world. Indian football may not be at the forefront of the world game, but when it comes to derbies there are few in the world that match the intensity of the Kolkata Derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan.

Being played since 1921, the Kolkata Derby has seen many memorable fixtures that have made it a standout game in the Indian football calendar. With the two Kolkata giants all set to clash in the I-League again this Sunday, we take a look back at the greatest Kolkata Derbies to be ever played and also why they are still in the collective memory of those who love the game in the city.

5. East Bengal 3-0 Mohun Bagan (I-League 2012-13)

Although, the Kolkata Derby is usually a torrid affair marked by indecent behaviour and aggressive fandom, as most derbies are, things took a turn for the worse in this ill-fated clash, when three Bagan players picked up yellow cards in the first half. Harmanjot Khabra, the then East Bengal midfielder headed the ball home in the dying embers of the opening 45 minutes, which was not taken kindly in the stands at half-time.

The seething crowd violence exploded soon when the second half resumed and Bagan marksman Odafa Okalie was shown a straight red card by the referee. Syed Rahim Nabi, Bagan’s midfielder was attacked by an impromptu missile which was targeted at the match officials. To handle the situation, the police baton-charged the Bagan section which caused a complete melee to break out inside the Salt Lake Stadium. The Bagan management decided to refuse to play anymore and the game was subsequently abandoned, with the Red and Gold Brigade handed a 3-0 walkover victory.

4. Mohun Bagan 5-3 East Bengal (I-League 2009-10)

Most Mohun Bagan fans, to this day, would pick this iconic win over their bitter rivals as one of their most famous wins. Chidi Edeh entered Bagan folklore on this day, scoring four goals in the Derby and thus becoming the first and only player to ever do so.

Watch: Mohun Bagan 5-3 East Bengal full match



Chidi ran the entire Bengal defence ragged for the rest of the game. Manish Maithani was the other goalscorer for the victors, whose fans went completely delirious after the match and ended up blocking the roads leading to the stadium for over two hours after the final whistle, dancing and celebrating.

For the Mariners, what makes this game even more special is that according to them, they had finally exorcised the ghosts of the 1975 IFA Shield final defeat.

3. East Bengal 4-1 Mohun Bagan (Federation Cup semi-final 1997)

The Kolkata Derby holds the world record in terms of attendance for a football match and it was at this game that the mark was set. An earth-shattering 1,31,000 people stormed inside the Salt Lake Stadium to catch a glimpse of not only the game, but to see what unfolds between two of the most recognized coaches in Indian football.

Watch: East Bengal 4-1 Mohun Bagan highlights

Mohun Bagan head coach Amal Datta had a reputation for being extremely nuanced with modern football tactics. Dutta was experimenting with a diamond formation in midfield that was predicted to cause big problems to the Bengal defence. However, his plan failed miserably as the Red and Gold Brigade, led by the unstoppable Bhaichung Bhutia tore them apart, with a second half hat-trick. Then Bengal manager PK Banerjee had fired up his troops before the game and there was nothing that Datta or his team could do to contain them.

East Bengal went on to lose the final to Salgaocar, but this match is etched in the memory of all those who watched it, as being a fine example of the tactical evolution of the Indian game.


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2. Mohun Bagan 3-1 East Bengal (IFA Shield 1969)

The 1969 Shield final featured some of the best players in Indian football, who back then were also some of the best players in Asia. A young Dutta had laid out his Bagan team in a 4-2-4 formation, which had caught East Bengal by surprise. The Shield was a very prestigious and hotly-contested competition in Indian football back then, so it was a bold move on Datta’s part to setup his team in that manner in such a high pressure game.

However, his tactical tinkering paid dividends. Despite having the mighty Peter Thangaraj in goal, East Bengal conceded thrice: a brace from Pranab Ganguly and a beautiful strike from Sukalyan Ghosh Dastidar. Recalling the day, Ganguly later admitted that they could have scored many more goals, if they had not been profligate with their chances. It was a true demonstration of class and quality.

1. East Bengal 5-0 Mohun Bagan, IFA Shield 1975

Arguably the most famous (or infamous, if you are a Mohun Bagan fan) Kolkata Derby of all-time, the IFA Shield final of 1975 is a dream that most East Bengal fans would love to relive on Sunday. Several things went wrong for the Mariners, as Surajit Sengupta, Shyam Thapa, and Ranjit Mukherjee gave the Red and Gold Brigade a 3-0 lead in the first half. Thapa even missed a penalty, but made up for his mistake with a brilliant finish in the 51st minute. That was not enough though, as Subhankar Sanyal came on to put a fifth goal past the Bagan defence in the 84th minute and complete an iconic victory for East Bengal.

The repercussions of this loss were severe: Bagan legends Subrata Bhattacharya and Prasun Banerjee had to spend the night hiding in a boat on the Ganges, as their own fans were hunting for them, while Bagan supporter Umakanto Palodhi killed himself stating that the shame of the loss was too much to bear for his mortal soul.

Published: Wed Jan 23, 2019 01:22 PM IST

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