Just like exactly a year ago, Mohun Bagan began running the show with a bewitching brilliance as Roy Krishna and Manvir Singh again set the stage on fire with two beautifully-crafted goals. And when Liston Colaco made it 3-0, taking advantage of East Bengal goalkeeper and captain Arindam Bhattacharya’s inexplicable blooper within 23 minutes of the season’s opening derby and their third overall in the tournament, it promised to be bigger and better for Antonio Lopez Habas’s side.
Throughout 90 minutes at the Tilak Maidan on Saturday, Mohun Bagan were so thrillingly unstoppable that it could have been a record-breaking night for them. For so many occasions, as they squandered one chance after another following that 11-minute blitzkrieg, they looked getting closer and closer to put to bed the demon of 5-0 rout at the hands of red-and-gold brigade in the 1975 IFA Shield final, if not more.
A livewire on the field, @JoniKauko bags the Hero of the Match award 👊📺 Watch his performance in the… https://t.co/SncqQfoC9C
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It was some moment, some match and some occasion in which the likes of Krishna, Hugo Boumous, Joni Kauko and others strutted with a royal grandeur, forcing the opponents to look like a pauper in every department of the game. Quite a chastening derby debut for East Bengal’s new Spanish coach Jose Manuel Diaz, indeed.
In the end, Mohun Bagan failed to embellish the scoreline with more goals. This was thanks partly to Suvam Sen, who replaced Arindam under the bar. But the way Mohun Bagan players asserted themselves, mixing fire and fury with a swashbuckling display and dismantled East Bengal, was simply stunning.
While Habas kept faith in his settled personnel going for an unchanged XI, Diaz employed Dutchman Darren Sidoel in a defensive midfielder’s role, primarily aimed at containing Boumous’s movements as well as rejigged the backline binging in Joyner Lourenco and Raju Gaikwad as full-backs.
The hosts started with early signs of a pressing game but once Krishna opened the floodgates, East Bengal’s all pre-match planning was swept aside in no time.
🗣️ “To win the derby is special, but I think we could have finished the game in the first half.”@RoyKrishna21 rea… https://t.co/oevcS754bA
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Mohun Bagan found in East Bengal’s right side a vulnerable point which was broken to pieces leading to the first two goals.
On the first occasion, Manvir sent an overlapping Pritam Kotal through with yards of space in front. The Mohun Bagan side-back, wearing the captain’s armband, took his time and picked up an unmarked Krishna with a perfect cut-back. Like a predator on the prowl, the Fijian drilled it in past a hapless Arindam with an exquisite first-time volley in the 12th minute.
And just like the last year, Manvir joined the party with another scorcher. This time Joni Kauko released him from deep and Manvir on entering the box, and finished the job with a thunderbolt.
2-0 up and this was where Habas’s team stopped in their first meeting at the same venue. But this time, they looked bolder, hungrier and were in for a better and bigger party.
And the way Arindam conceded the goal in the 23rd minute, was reflective of his team’s meltdown and the opponents’ magical rise in the game. The goalkeeper rushed out of his line but fumbled big time in collecting the ball, allowing Colaco a free passage to the goal.
“It is difficult to play against them but we did well in the 2nd half”Adil Khan shares his thoughts after… https://t.co/xbMh6EOA0M
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It was enough for Diaz to take off his captain, who apparently looked to have picked an injury during the incident. But there was no let-up in Mohun Bagan’s intensity.
None exemplified Mohun Bagan’s superiority more so than Boumous and Kauko who systematically unravelled their rivals.
Diaz tried to stem the rot by replacing Tomislav Mrcela with Amir Dervisevic in the defence and bringing in Adil Khan in place of Raju Gaikwad after the break. But it still remained a one-way traffic for Mohoun Bagan.
But as Kauko, Krishna and others missed one chance after another to rub more salt into the rivals’ wound, East Bengal were eventually spared of a more serious humiliation.