I-League: Mohun Bagan 0-1 East Bengal – Five talking points

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Sportskeeda lists the five talking points from Sunday’s big Kolkata derby where East Bengal defeated Mohun Bagan 1-0 thanks to a second half wonder strike from Lalrindika Ralte.

East Bengal show title winning qualities

The red-and-gold brigade are widely accepted as the favourites for this season’s I-League title given the strength in depth in their squad. They endured a difficult start with just seven points from five matches but Sunday’s encounter was another reminder of their title credentials. East Bengal were far from their best and in fact were opened up quite easily by Mohun Bagan on a couple of occasions. The Mariners had the better chances while East Bengal struggled to create openings. Then in the 73rd minute Lalrindika produced a moment of magic to put East Bengal in front and they held on to claim the bragging rights. Winning games when you are not playing well is a key quality for a title chasing side and East Bengal certainly showed that on Sunday. They have plenty of goal scorers in the team and that will allow them to win many tight games despite not dominating proceedings.

But Armando Colaco still has his work cut out

Despite the derby delight, Armando has his work cut out at East Bengal

Despite the derby delight, Armando Colaco has his work cut out at East Bengal

The record five-time I-League winning coach couldn’t have wished for a better start to his East Bengal reign as the derby win over the arch-rivals will make him an instant with the East Bengal faithful. But Armando will be well aware that there is plenty of hard work ahead to make East Bengal the champions of India for the first time since 2004. East Bengal enjoyed a good derby record under Trevor Morgan also but the Englishman was always under pressure to play his best side even in tournaments like the Calcutta Football League and the IFA Shield. Armando will have to somehow convince the ever demanding club officials and rotate his squad accordingly. The 60-year-old will also have to get the balance in his side right which he did too an extent on Sunday and at the same time build up a chemistry between strikers Edeh Chidi and James Moga or else East Bengal will struggle to find consistency.

Bencherifa can take positives


A derby defeat is never easy to take and the result crucially also ended Mohun Bagan’s four-match unbeaten streak in the I-League but Karim Bencherifa still has some positives to take from Sunday’s loss. The biggest will be the team’s defensive organisation as East Bengal could only create one clear cut opportunity while the goal was a moment of individual brilliance. Mohun Bagan’s defending is even more laudable considering the fact that they didn’t have Nigerian Eche available. A young back four comprising under-21 players like Pritam Kotal and Shouvik Ghosh held their own against one of the best attacks in the I-League. Odafa Okolie’s return to action will also be a plus point for Bencherifa as the Nigerian completed ninety minutes and with a bit more luck and support could have even got on the scoresheet. Mohun Bagan fans will be disappointed with the result but their young and inexperienced team is far from a crisis.

Pressure on Odafa will mount

Is the pressure of being the talisman getting to Odafa?  FILE Photo

Is the pressure of being the talisman getting to Odafa?FILE Photo

From a football point of view, Odafa can’t be faulted for Sunday’s result. Playing in a deeper role in the first half, the Mohun Bagan talisman produced some nice passes including a defence splitting through ball early on from which Eric Muranda should have scored. In the second period the Nigerian looked dangerous upfront and with a bit more luck could have found the back of the net. For a player coming back from injury Odafa couldn’t have done any better. But the majority of the fans, club officials and local language media in Kolkata don’t feel the same way. Odafa is the highest paid player in Indian football history and there is a cynical feeling that the Nigerian’s attitude on and off the pitch over the last 18 month has weakened Mohun Bagan. So Odafa will be a big culprit of this derby loss as he is expected to produce wonders every time he is on the pitch. This pressure will only increase after Sunday.

Lalrindika’s reputation gets enhanced

Photo Credit: Goutam Mukherjee

Lalrindika Ralte celebrated the wonder strike passionately

Lalrindika is one of the best Indian players of his generation but predictably he only got noticed after moving to East Bengal last season because of the glamour and publicity that surrounds the Kolkata club. The Mizoram lad’s stock further rose this year largely because of his performances in the AFC Cup as he became India’s joint all-time highest scorer in the competition. He is back in the national team now and Sunday’s match winner will make him even more popular in the Indian football fraternity. He flourished under Morgan and is now reunited with the coach that gave him his international debut two years. Armando rightly pointed out after the game that Lalrindika still has plenty of room for improvement and at 21 he still has plenty of time on his side. Whatever he achieves next in his career, Sunday’s goal will remain a very special moment for Lalrindika and perhaps turn out to be a key turning point.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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