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I-League 2017: 5 most memorable Kolkata derbies

Do Dong-Hyun.jpg
Though largely unsuccessful, Do Dong-Hyun scripted his name into East Bengal folklore with a brilliant brace

Derbies are easily one of the most attractive things about football – the rivalry, the jeering, the animosity, the histrionics, the chanting and above all, the passion. This fiery cocktail usually ends up firing up all those who do not even watch the game on a regular basis.

India is no different to this, and here we have the “Kolkata Derby” which exerts a similar effect. The two warring factions viz. East Bengal and Mohun Bagan – are clubs who are not only steeped in history but also are the most decorated outfits in the land. Between them, they share seven national league titles (NFL and I-League combine) and 26 Federation Cups.

The fanaticism that these two generate has led to even FIFA recognising the derby as one of the most iconic games in the world.

This season, East Bengal top the I-League table while Mohun Bagan are close on their heels in the second place. As such, the derby has not only gained even more significance but could well play a critical role in deciding who lifts the coveted title in May. With the Bengal clubs set to lock horns this Sunday, let’s take a walk down memory lane and visit the 5 games that have caused an indelible impact on the history of this particular match:

#1 East Bengal 4-0 Mohun Bagan, September 2015

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It is not very often that a match between these two is completely dominated by one side, but that is exactly how it turned out when they locked horns at a Calcutta Football League game in 2015 at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata.

In front of a packed house, the mighty Mariners fell to a somewhat unfancied Red and Gold brigade, as a brace from cult hero Do Dong-Hyun sealed the fate of the match. Wild celebrations followed in the streets right after it, and boosted by the margin, East Bengal went on to clinch the league title that season.

#4 Mohun Bagan 5-3 East Bengal, October 2009

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For the first and only time in the history of this 96-year old battle, Mohun Bagan put 5 past a hapless East Bengal defence who were taken to task by a mercurial Chidi Edeh. Nirmal Chettri had handed the lead to the men in red and gold, but 4 goals from Chidi and a solo one from Manish Maithani handed a severe dent in the pride of their eternal rivals.

The ageless Yasif Yukubu did his best to inspire a comeback from a jaded East Bengal side, and the teams had gone into the half-time break level on 3-3. However, Chidi came to the forefront once again in the second half and was ably assisted by silly errors from Abhra Mondal who was East Bengal’s goalkeeper on the night.

The Nigerian broke all sorts of records that day, as he not only become the first overseas player to register a derby hat-trick but also the only player to score four goals in derby history. Despite the scoreline not being as emphatic as the one in 1975, Mohun Bagan fans still take immense pride from this win.

#3 East Bengal 4-1 Mohun Bagan, July 1997

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A game that can only be likened to the one Barcelona and Inter Milan played out in the semi-finals of the 2010 Champions League, this one was not only a treat for the eyes but has also permanently made its place in the annals of Indian football history.

Amal Dutta’s infamous “Diamond Formation” went for a toss that day, as an incredible Bhaichung Bhutia ripped apart the Bagan defence with his skill and pace and netted an outstanding hat trick.

PK Banerjee, on the other hand, firmly established himself as one of India’s all-time great coaches, while a record 131,000 attending the game witnessed the rise of one of India’s greatest footballers ever in the form of the Sikkimese Sniper, Bhaichung Bhutia. Cheema scored the consolation goal for the Mariners, but it was too little too late.

#2 Mohun Bagan 4-3 East Bengal, August 2007

Mohun Bagan 4-3 East Bengal
Jose Barreto and Venkatesh helped Mohun Bagan script a famous win

Imagine Ryan Giggs coaching Liverpool or Pep Guardiola seated in the dugouts of Real Madrid. A situation not much dissimilar to that arose in 2007 when Mohun Bagan legend Subrata Bhattacharya took up the coaching job at East Bengal. And the largely unpopular spell was virtually ended when he failed lead East Bengal to a win in the derby.

A masterclass from Jose Ramires Barreto and S Venkatesh handed a 4-1 lead to the Mariners, but the match was anything but over. A quick-fire brace from Alvito D’Cunha and another from Edmilson set up a tense finale, but it was the Green and Maroon brigade who emerged victorious at the end of the 90 minutes.

Many consider this game to be the finest in the history of the derby and as an example of East Bengal’s never-give-up attitude, and it will certainly live long in the memories of all those who saw it live.

#1 East Bengal 5-0 Mohun Bagan, September 1975

East Bengal 5-0 Mohun Bagan
East Bengal fans jubilant after the famous win

Arguably the most one-sided derby game ever, a ruthless East Bengal routed a Mohun Bagan side who never realised what hit them. Splendid, expansive attacking football met exquisite finishing and goalkeeping errors which led to the highest goal margin in the history of these meetings. Goals from Surajit Sengupta, Shyam Thapa, Ranjit Mukherjee and Subhankar Sanyal led to a scoreline which still haunts every Mariner, and is a source of pride and nostalgia for every East Bengal fan.

The Red and Gold brigade ousted their nemesis is dismissive fashion that day and went on to write their names in the archives of Indian football by winning the IFA Shield whilst maintaining their unbeaten streak over their city rivals since 1969.

Such was the extent of suffering for the Mariners that one of them committed suicide, while thousands mobbed the players and the club tents which led to players like Subrata Mukherjee having to spend the night on a boat in the Ganges.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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