9.4.2011, Calcutta: The unbridled euphoria of the East Bengal players and fans at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Saturday, might have given an impression as if they have won the I-League. But then they have every reason to go overboard.
The red and gold brigade are back in the title race and that too after beating their arch-rivals Mohun Bagan. The 2-1 result in favour of Trevor James Morgan’s men enabled them to close the gap to two points with leaders Salgaocar and gave that bragging right associated with Bengal’s most enduring battle.
In the head-to-head count with Bagan this season — Saturday was 2010-2011’s last Derby clash — East Bengal remained unbeaten. That’s quite an achievement.
East Bengal’s Australian striker Tolgay Ozebe got his first goal against Bagan with a delightfully curling left-footer in the seventh minute. Three minutes into the second half Surkumar Singh equalised when his speculative right-footer deflected off an East Bengal player and went past a sprawling goalkeeper Jayanta Paul. In the 54th minute Tolgay, on the right flank, played it to Baljit Sahni, whose audacious right-footed flick nestled into the net leaving the Bagan defence stranded and ’keeper Sangram Mukherjee clueless.
Bagan technical director Subhas Bhowmick took a gamble, on Saturday. He gave a start to an unfit Jose Ramirez Barreto thinking that it may unnerve the rival camp. Well, more than unnerving the rivals, it blunted Bagan’s attack. Barreto limped through out his 37-minute stay and was finally replaced by Subair Murithala Ali
“It was a gamble. He was very keen to play and I could not say no… It did not work out and I am ready to take the flak,” Bhowmick was candid.
Barreto, however, did manage to put one into the East Bengal net but referee Deepak Singh had already blown the whistle for a foul on Edeh Chidi. It was unwanted and the referee could have given advantage to the green and maroon brigade since the ball was with Barreto. Bagan in fact had two more goals disallowed in the second half. Once Chidi’s strike was disallowed as Mohanraj was hauled up for a foul throw and next Murithala used his hand to bring down a ball before volleying home. On these two instances the referee was spot-on.
The red and goal brigade were very sloppy before the change of ends. Bagan clearly had the better of exchanges but Morgan’s pep talk at the breather saw a different East Bengal in the second half. There was more co-ordination between Penn Orji and Mehtab Hossain at the centre and the defence looked more solid. Gurwinder Singh was brilliant in defence and looked more comfortable than the celebrated Uga Okpara. The former JCT player, who has been a revelation this season under Morgan, has a very no-nonsense approach to his game. There are no frills, no extravagant tackles; he just does his job in a calm way.
If the red and gold defence was airtight, the Bagan back-four was cagey and should be blamed for both the goals. In case of Tolgay’s first goal, Mohanraj and Kingshuk Debnath were not alert enough and allowed the striker to hit that left-footer. And then Anwar, Mondal and Mohanraj just stood and watched as Tolgay played it to Baljit for the winner.
Bhowmick sounded crestfallen when he said: “Silly mistakes cost us dear. Now we have nothing to play for.”
For the record, Bagan have 26 points from 20 matches, while East Bengal have 41 from 19. Salgaocar, who have a match on Monday, have 43 from 18.
At the aisle, East Bengal fans were still dancing to the beat of the drums. The team is surely back in the reckoning.
East Bengal: Jayanta Paul, Naoba Singh, Uga Okpara, Gurwinder Singh, Soumik Dey, R Vashum (Sanju Pradhan 74), Ravinder Singh (Syed Rahim Nabi 60), Mehtab Hossain, Penn Orji, Tolgey Ozebe, Baljit Sahni (Sushil Singh 79)
Mohun Bagan: Sangram Mukherjee, Surkumar Singh, Anwar, Deepak Mondal, Kingshuk (Snehasish Chakraborty 29), N Mohonraj, Rakesh Masih, Jayanta Sen, Ashim Biswas(Gouranga Datta 63), Barreto (Subair Muritala Ali 37), Edeh Chidi
Referee: Deepak Singh
MoM: Mehtab Hossain
Here are the match videos :