I-League: Arch-rivals play out tame draw

Mohun Bagan and East Bengal played out an insipid draw in their I-League fixture in Siliguri on Sunday.


T.P.Rehenesh was secure under the bar for East Bengal.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar (File Photo)

East Bengal and Mohun Bagan put paid to the excitement built around their Derby appearance by playing out a safe goalless draw in a ninth-round encounter of the I-League here at the Kanchenjunga Stadium on Sunday. The traditional rivals, meeting for the 352nd time in a history spanning 96 years, could not live up to the intensity associated with their clash and remained inseparable in putting caution over aggression and wasting a few chances that came their ways.

It was more of a box-to-box action in the first half with the two opponents focussing more on the action in the middle-third and limiting the number of penetrative moves on either ends. The moments that could be counted as attacks were also equal. Mohun Bagan earned four corners of which two bothered the East Bengal custodian T.P. Rehenesh. The first one happened in the 14th minute when Rehenesh had to stretch himself full length to palm out a swerving shot from Sony Nordy, who saw his second effort in the 33rd minute meeting the same fate as the former stood firm under the East Bengal bar.

The combination of Scotsman Darryl Duffy and Haitian Nordy in the Mohun Bagan attack remained intermittent in effect as did the pair of East Bengal’s Haitian midfielder Wedson Enselme and Trinidad and Tobago striker Willis Plaza. Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen made a few changes compared to the team that played Colombo FC in the AFC Cup, bringing in goalkeeper Debjit Majumder and defenders Pritam Kotal, Eduardo Ferreira (Brazil) and Subhasish Bose to bolster bulwark. For East Bengal, seasoned Mehtab Hossain returned to Trevor Morgan’s side after serving a one-game suspension.

Mohun Bagan earned the first chance in the 15th minute when Norde set up a back centre which was met by Kotal with a nice first-timer. But Rehenesh came up with a nice block to keep East Bengal in play. Next, it was the turn of Majumdar in the Mohun Bagan goal to come up a nice save when Plaza came close to scoring off a nice assist from Wedson. Plaza was at it again in the 57th minute when Robin Singh released him with a back header but the former could not breach Majumdar’s defence despite coming with a nice effort.

In the end the drawn result seemed to serve the interest of both the opponents as East Bengal remained on top with 20 points off eight matches and Mohun Bagan just behind with 17 from seven. The stalemate was best described in Morgan’s words after the match, “At a certain point of the match, subconsciously no team wanted to lose.”

The result: East Bengal 0 drew with Mohun Bagan 0. Man of the Match: T.P. Rehenesh

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