A goal from Ranti Martins that Cornell Glen cancelled within minutes meant that the 338th meeting between traditional rivals East Bengal and Mohun Bagan ended in a 1-1 deadlock, here at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday evening. The first Kolkata Derby of the New Year failed to reproduce the intensity generally associated with the 95-year-old duel that has perpetuated the city’s passion for the sport.
Ranti Martins found the opener midway through the second half before Glen nodded home the equaliser in the final quarter of the action to force the 112th draw between the two sides. It was the 12th draw in the 37 meetings the two have had in the I-League. A barren first half highlighted caution overriding aggression as the two opponents sought to check their instincts and focus more on midfield play. East Bengal were a shade better in organisation as pre-match favourites Mohun Bagan tried in vain to get their attacking combination in place.
Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen introduced Haitian Sony Norde as the only change in the team that beat Salgaocar in the last match. But Sen had to bring in Balwant Singh within 13 minutes as young Azharuddin Mallick could not give much support to Trinidad and Tobago striker Glen in the attack. East Bengal coach Biswajit Bhattacharya made four changes, fielding Rahul Bheke, Saumik Dey, Mohammad Rafique and Abinash Ruidas in the team that draw goalless in the previous match against Mumbai FC.
Creating more openings initially, East Bengal saw Sikkim-born winger Bikas Jairu and Korean striker Do Dong Hyun making good inroads into the opposition box. The goal failed to materialise as the two and Martins appeared a trifle lax when it came to finishing. Mohun Bagan saw more activity from Norde, whose incisive runs put the opposition defence under pressure.
The second half saw both the sides shifting gears. East Bengal goalkeeper T.P. Rehenesh and his counterpart Debjit Majumdar made two good saves to thwart successive attempts from Glen and Hyun before the opener came up. Martins, who was kept under check by the Mohun Bagan defence for most of the match, was found unmarked by a nice chip from Jairu in the 63rd minute. The Nigerian made no mistake with his volley to give East Bengal the lead.
Stung by the reverse, Bagan went for the kill and found success off a set-piece situation in the 77th minute. Norde fired a precise freekick that found Glen in a crowd of East Bengal defenders. The latter fired a bullet header to beat Rehenesh’s well-anticipated dive. The draw put Mohun Bagan on seven points from three matches while East Bengal tallied five points from their three outings.
Result: East Bengal 1 (Ranti Martins 63) drew with Mohun Bagan 1 (Cornell Glen 77)