(Image Courtesy: Hindustan Times)
The East Bengal infested city of Siliguri saw a goalless end to the derby, with both teams actually playing seasoned and well thought out football and perhaps even better referring.
The build up to the derby was tense. East Bengal have always had the infamous knack of getting undue advantages from the referee & match officials in the past, sins unpunished, clock hands stretched and what not !
Hence, Bagan fans were prepared for the worst when to came to match refereeing, but were pleasantly surprised to see referee Srikrishna keep a good leash on the game. So kudos to the ref for that. Of course, Mehtab, Dika et al were up to their usual impish antics, but thats what they do best.
The match started off well, each team putting the other to a good test and battled for midfield supremacy. On one hand Sony Norde was kept on tight leash on the left flank, with a double marking at times, and got no space whatsoever for his down the flank runs. He of course showed his class off a few corners and passes, but today wasnt his day. On the other hand, the Bagan defensive trio of Anas, Edu & Subhashis did a great job of keeping Wedson & Plaza at bay. Tackles met tackles and tactics crossed paths.
Jeje had a sub par day at office, was perhaps struggling a bit with the uneven bounce of the Siliguri turf.The usually nimble footed Jeje seems to be losing his agility a little bit, which could be ominous signs for Indian football. Hope Jeje proves us wrong real soon !
Duffy was energetic and quite enterprising, tried a couple of solo runs but none of the moves were clinical. He dropped down to a more withdrawn role, ran up front when needed.
The first half was primarily dominated by Mohun Bagan (East Bengal did have 2 shots at goal, but were easily fended by Debjit). Bagan went really close to taking the lead on a couple occasions, especially off a corner, but EB custodian Rehnesh did an excellent job of keeping the scoreline intact. He was indeed the man of the match.
This league has seen EB start the 2nd half with a burst of energy, and Bagan did well to slow down the pace of the game at the start of the 2nd half. EB did have a few good moves, but none that really challenged the Bagan keeper Debjit, except for one occasion where Wedson had a clear shot at goal with only Debjit in front of him.
The Bagan front line lacked lustre and coach Sanjay Sen would have done well had he been a bit more courageous and brought in Balwant earlier in the game in place of Jeje. Balwant came in only in the 75th min, and was starting to look dangerous before time ran out.
Sanjay did show a bold tactical move in bringing in Prabir Das on the right flank in place of an off color Sony and switching Katsumi to the right. This did bring in a burst of speed on both flanks.. but again, time was of essence.
Overall, it was a good game by both sides, and perhaps the score line was just reflection of the game today.
Bagan stay 2nd in the league table, with EB at top equal on points, but with better goal difference