The biggest match in Indian Football - the Kolkata Derby - was played for the first time in the 2018-19 season as a huge crowd thronged to the famed Yuva Bharati Krirangan, or as it is popularly known now, the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata today afternoon for a clash in the Calcutta Football League.
The famous arena in Kolkata witnessed its first Calcutta Football League derby after the renovation of the Salt Lake Stadium after East Bengal's emphatic 4-0 win over Mohun Bagan back in 2015.
The fixture marks a clash at the top of the table in the Calcutta Football League as the two teams are locked on 19 points after seven rounds of matches but Mohun Bagan edge ahead of their rivals on account of higher goals scored (16) compared to East Bengal (14). Both the teams have six wins and a draw from their fixtures so far.
Mohun Bagan won their previous fixture over the Aryan Club with a 2-0 margin whereas East Bengal staved off a tough challenge against George Telegraph to win 2-1 courtesy a last-minute goal.
We take a look at the major talking points from the Kolkata derby today.
#1 End to end stuff from both the sides early on in the game
The two sides had huge support from the crowd gathered at the Yuva Bharati Krirangan stadium and the chants started from the first minute itself. The support must have egged the player on as they were high in intensity from the get-go.
Both the teams were comfortable on the ball and started their attacks from the back as the midfield was pretty packed. Mohun Bagan was better with attacks on the counter utilizing the speed of their wingers and the physicality of their strikers to create chances early on. A freekick in a promising position saw Henry Kisseka come close to scoring but the East Bengal keeper Rakshit Dagar was up to the task and produced an incredible diving save to keep his effort out.
For East Bengal, Al Amna was the architect of the attacks from the midfield as he kept looking for holes in the Bagan defence. He had the pacy duo of Brandon and Laldanmawi ahead of him with striker Jobby Justin in the box.
#2 Pintu Mahata strikes first blood in the derby
The pressure from the two sides had led to a couple of chances at both the ends but it was the Maroon and Green brigade who got the advantage in the match first.
A diagonal ball found the marauding right-back Arijit Bagui on the flank, who controlled the ball well and put in a cross into the East Bengal box to find any of the two strikers. However, his cross was met with great timing by the youngster Pintu Mahata who slotted a low drive on the first touch past the hapless Rakshit Dagar into the goal to set off celebrations in the Mohun Bagan half of the stadium.
#3 East Bengal falter in defence as Henry Kisseka doubles the lead
The East Bengal defence was carved open by the cross from Arijit Bagui for the first goal scored by Pintu Mahata when he found himself in open space near the penalty spot for the shot.
The Mohun Bagan attacks were very regular and kept testing the backline of the Red and Gold brigade. Jhonny Acosta and Samad Ali Mallick were struggling to keep their shape. They paid dearly for their lack of coherence and it was almost Deja Vu as another Arijit Bagui cross created the second goal for Mohun Bagan.
The right-back put in a floating ball into the box that wasn't headed out by Mehtab Singh and found its way to Kisseka, who controlled it and smashed it into the left bottom corner to make it 2-0 for the Mariners.
#4 Mohun Bagan's stable defence fumbles as Jhonny Acosta scores on debut
Mohun Bagan's backline had been incredibly well-organized by Shankarlal Chakraborty and they did not allow East Bengal any easy attempts at the goal. Shilton Paul had hardly made any saves in the first half except some collections from the crosses from the flanks.
However, a small mistake by the defence allowed East Bengal to cut the lead to one as Jhonny Acosta, the man from Costa Rica's World Cup squad scored on his debut just before the first half ended. He got his head to a cross from the right flank and the effort was saved but the rebound clearance by Bagan defence ricocheted off him and the ball looped into the goal to make it 2-1.
#5 East Bengal recover well in the second half to level the match
The second half of the match saw East Bengal recover from the dominant showing by the Bagan side in the first period. The Red and Golds looked better in all aspects after the break, perhaps boosted by the late first-half goal by Jhonny Acosta.
The second period saw them attack with freedom as they were able to assert control over proceedings on the park. They were rewarded for their persistence just after the hour mark when Laldanmawia Ralte put them ahead. A corner put in by Lalrindika Ralte was dealt well by Shilton Paul but the rebound fell to Ralte who smashed it into the goal to make it 2-2.
After the goal, the two sides continued to probe each other for the elusive winning goal but the match ended 2-2, in perhaps a fair result in the end.