CFL 2018/19: A lot at stake in season’s first Kolkata derby4 min read
KOLKATA: Another Kolkata derby is nearly upon us, with Sunday’s Calcutta Premier Division ‘A’ clash between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan carrying more intrigue than usual, given that both sides are well in the title race this season.
It’s this season’s first derby and fans from both side will be waiting in anticipation as a chance to brag and rub the old enemy’s faces in it will be on the line.
With a sell-out crowd expected and much-anticipation from both sides, the Kolkata giants are expected to put on a spectacle on the field at Salt Lake Stadium, as the fans pack in to India’s home of football to watch their heroes in action.
It may not be a season-defining game, but league standings provide enough motivation for both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, who are level on 19 points from 7 matches and only separated by difference in goals scored. A win for either side will strengthen their title aspirations.
This clash promises to be an entertaining affair as both sides play an attacking brand of football and will be full of confidence after posting impressive results in their respective last matches. East Bengal come into the match on the back of a clinical 2-1 win over George Telegraph in their midweek clash, while Mohun Bagan have been invisible in their last three games, scoring 10 goals and conceding none.
Though Mohun Bagan strikers may have gained their form and put on their striking boots much faster than their counterparts, but East Bengal boast the better organisation and carry a threat from the wide areas and midfield as well.
The the Red and Golds have based their game on a solid defense that have conceded only once in the campaign. They are quick off the blocks on either flanks with a solid midfield marshalled by Mahmoud Al Amna amd Kassim Aidara.
Though East Bengal have boasted nine different goal-scorers at the league, more than any other team, but they often rely on the star quality of Amna for a consistent brand of creativity.
Amna has deservedly taken many of the plaudits in the campaign but Jobby Justin and Laldanmawia Ralte have often been just as important to many of East Bengal’s winning efforts.
It’s a fact that East Bengal have the league’s meanest defense but the truth is slightly more nuanced; opponents with sharper edges than Rainbow AC or Goerge Telegrpagh, would probably have punish them. They have not always looked watertight despite the impressive performances of centre-back pair Kinshuk Debnath and Mehtab Singh, and Mohun Bagan could be lively enough to take advantage.
East Bengal has a full complement to choose from with Costa Rican World-Cupper Johny Acosta made himself available after completing his IFA registration yesterday.
However, technical director Subhash Bhowmick’s biggest team decision comes over the introduction of Asosta. It’s a double-edged sword.
On the other hand, Mohun Bagan like to play counter-attacking football, as they soak up pressure for long periods before launching the ball forward to their speedy attackers upfront. This especially suits winger Britto PM to a tee, as well as Aser Dipanda Dicka and Henry Kisekka, all of who use their pace to occupy space behind opponents. It has been an effective strategy bringing out the best in their attacking trio even when the performances look disjointed.
We can discuss about Mohun Bagan’s speed on offense all day long, but the unity and discipline of their back-line is somewhat frightening for their opponents. Led by Eze Kingsley, the Mariners back-line should give East Bengal problems throughout the match.
However, Mohun Bagan appear to be the more creatively impotent of the two sides with central midfielders Shilton D’Silva and Sourav Das usually bereft of attacking instincts, and coach Sankarlal Chakraborty might try to fix the problem by handing start to Mehtab Hossain to shoulder the creative burden.
The big question is will Mohun Bagan try to press the pace right from the start, or sit back looking to capitalize on any East Bengal mistakes. It will be also interesting to see how Mohun Bagan will deploy in the defensive half to counter East Bengal’s speed on transition.
Over the past couple seasons, Mariners have the edge, having won three of the last four derbies, and with the most recent match in January this year which Mohun Bagan won 2-0 thanks to a brace from Dipanda.
With all said and done the game the game will be a gritty contest, where both teams fight for more than just the three points but for pride, respect and an opportunity to be Kolkata’s top team until they meet again.