A 60th-minute wonder strike from Nandhakumar Sekar was enough as East Bengal FC ended their 9-match winless run against city rivals Mohun Bagan SG in the Durand Cup 2023.
Carles Cuadrat's East Bengal FC came into the game after a 2-2 draw with Bangladesh Army in the Durand Cup 2023. They had to get a point against the Mariners in this game to keep their hopes of advancing out of the group alive.
Mohun Bagan SG had beaten Bangladesh Army and Punjab FC in the previous two Durand Cup games with 5-0 and 2-0 scorelines. They were on perfect form coming into the big game against the Red and Golds.
East Bengal FC contained a star-studded Mohun Bagan SG midfield throughout the entirety of the game and seldom allowed the Mariners to play with freedom. The Red and Golds managed to create some half chances in the first half but failed to hit the target.
The second half began in a similar fashion with both sides entangled in scrappy and slow football. It required a moment of inspiration from former Odisha FC winger Nandhakumar Sekar as he hit the Mariners on the counter, and went past Anirudh Thapa with a little shimmy. He found the top left corner of the goal with a wonder strike in the 60th minute.
The Mariners had the likes of Armando Sadiku and Jason Cummings in their ranks but failed to effectively challenge the East Bengal FC defence. The Red and Golds held on to a slender 1-0 lead and ran out as winners.
East Bengal FC player Ratings
Prabhsukhan Gill (8/10)
The young goalkeeper was effective between the sticks and made some clean collections as the Mariners tried to test him with long balls and aerial crosses. He barely made any errors and was on the top of his game.
Lal Chungnunga (8/10)
Lalchungnunga kept the likes of Armando Sadiku and Manvir Singh at bay. He showed a daunting presence in the air and never allowed the Mariners to be comfortable with the ball in the attacking areas.
Harmanjot Singh Khabra (8/10)
Mandar Rao Dessai (7/10)
While defensively, he did not have much to do and Mandar Rao Dessai allowed the liberty to go forward and combine with Mahesh Singh on the attack. He delivered some promising low and high crosses from the left which kept the Mohun Bagan defenders busy.
Jordan Elsey (7/10)
Jordan Elsey was not much involved in the game and had a decent outing. He initially struggled to keep up with the likes of Hugo Boumous in the midfield but slowly settled down in the second half.
Nandha Kumar (9/10)
Nandha Kumar always posed a danger for the Mohun Bagan defenders since kick-off. He was fast and quick throughout the game on the right side and was the nodal point for many of the East Bengal forward balls in the first half.
He is the man of the moment as East Bengal hit Mohun Bagan on the counter and scored a wonder strike to earn three points for the Red and Golds in his Kolkata Derby debut.
Saul Crespo (9/10)
Saul Crespo was crucial for Carles Cuadrat's side to disrupt the Mohun Bagan midfield. The Spaniard did the dirty work of dropping down, earning the ball, and building up play. He made several interceptions and never allowed the Mariners any freedom in the central areas.
Souvik Chakrabarti (8/10)
The experienced Indian midfielder played a very similar role to Saul Crespo. He was disciplined and put in some aggressive challenges in the midfield and was a continuous obstacle for the likes of Liston Colaco and Sahal Abdul Samad.
Borja Herrera (8/10)
Partnering Crespo in the midfield, Borja Herrera was tasked with carrying the ball forward and creating openings for East Bengal. He found pockets of space and was useful in the tight areas and released his side on counter-attacking moves on several occasions.
Naorem Mahesh Singh (8/10)
Mahesh Singh was fast and creative. He combined well with Nandhakumar in many of the counter-pressing tactics and played some fantastic through balls to his strike partner Javier Siverio.
Javier Siverio Toro (6/10)
Siverio was kept quiet by the Mohun Bagan defence. Anwar Ali kept man-marking him throughout the game and the Spanish striker was not allowed much liberty to operate.
VP Suhair (7/10)
VP Suhair brought in some fresh legs and renewed energy in the East Bengal attack in the final 15 minutes and forced the Mohun Bagan defenders to defend deep. This was despite them desperately looking for the equaliser.
Vanlelpeka Guite (7/10)
The young 17-year-old midfielder showed glimpses of brilliance in the midfield and added a flare of creativity in the last few minutes of the game.