In a hotly contested derby engagement at the Kanchenjunga Stadium here on Sunday, East Bengal twice erased the deficit to hold Mohun Bagan to a 2-2 draw and win the Calcutta Football League premier division-A title for the eighth consecutive time.
As both teams ended with 23 points apiece after nine matches, East Bengal took this year’s title on the basis of a better goal difference (EB 21, MB 15).
For the fifth time the title was decided on goal difference in the 119-year history of the league.
The Mariners shocked the red-and-gold brigade in the second minute when Azharuddin Mallick’s shot deflected off defender Carlyle Mitchell’s leg into the East Bengal goal.
Bagan’s trusted overseas forwards, Ansumana Kromah and Stephane Bayi Kamo, maintained excellent coordination and applied constant pressure.
However, East Bengal latched onto a 43rd minute free-kick to draw parity. From the left, Lalramchulluva crossed Gabriel Fernandes’ precise 25-yard lofted shot and Laldanmawia Ralte, who played an important role to negate the effect of the tight marking on Al Amna, tapped it in. The Bagan defenders were caught napping.
Azharuddin could not finish a fine move as Bagan took the break with scores level.
Early in the second half, Bagan again grabbed the lead as Kromah scored from the penalty following Mitchell’s foul inside the box.
But Bagan could not gain further ground as Kamo’s shot narrowly missed the target on the right. He could not capitalise on a few more chances as Bagan looked for the third goal in vain.
Raynier Fernandes’ avoidable foul gifted East Bengal a penalty after the hour mark and Al Amna made no mistake in putting it in.
Bagan captain Kingshuk Debnath’s second yellow card, resulting in a red, in the 84th minute generated some ugly moments as his fellow colleagues protested heavily against referee Ranjit Bakshi’s decision.
Minutes later East Bengal was also reduced to 10 men for an identical offence by Surabuddin Mallick.
Amidst heated exchanges between players of both sides, East Bengal avoided claimed its 39th title.