KOLKATA: East Bengal battled back to hold Mohun Bagan 2-2 in the first Kolkata derby of the season at Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday.
The result meant both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal remained tied on 20 points after 8 matches while Mohun Bagan leading the standings thanks to difference in goals scored.
Mohun Bagan took a two goal lead thanks to Pintu Mahata (20′) and Henry Kisekka (30′) before East Bengal made a comeback and scored through Johny Acosta (45+2′) and Laldanmawia Ralte (61′). A sharing of the spoils was a fair reflection of a battle in which neither really gained the ascendancy.
Mohun Bagan were the better side in the opening exchanges as they were able to dominate possession and create chances with East Bengal forced to defend in numbers.
Henry’s glancing header was brilliantly saved by East Bengal goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar in the 5th minute as Mohun Bagan fired the first warning.
Dagar then was called into action four minutes later as the former Minerva Punjab keeper denied Aser Dipanda Dicka with a good save.
East Bengal did threaten in the 14th minute following a mistake by the Bagan defense, but Jobby Justin was well denied by Shilton Paul.
Having missed some half chances till the 20th-minute mark, Mohun Bagan finally broke the deadlock after Pintu scored from Arijit Bagui’s right sided pass.
Having scored, Mohun Bagan increased their pressure and attacked the rival goal ferociously going close on a few occasions. Ten minutes later, Mohun Bagan’s pressure yielded another goal when Henry got on the score-sheet. It was none other but Arijit who again provided the assist with a brilliant free-kick inside the box.
Thereafter, East Bengal pushed ahead for the goal. East Bengal’s persistent paid off as Acosta slotted in a rebound from a his own header that was saved by Shilton in additional time to make it 2-1 going into the half-time.
Changing over, East Bengal began keeping possession well and launching attacks, and they managed to level matters in the 61st minute when Laldanmawia scored from substitute Lalrindika Ralte’s corner to make it 2-2.
The goal gave East Bengal much needed boost as they pushed ahead in numbers attacking through Mahmoud Al Amna, Laldanmawia and Lalrindika but were falling short in the final third.
East Bengal almost pulled ahead in the 74th minute after some intelligent play. Lalramchullova released Kassim Aidara on the left flank on a quick free-kick. The midfielder floated in a dangerous cross, however, was well positioned as the keeper palmed it over.
Meanwhile, at the other end, Mohun Bagan too had a few close chances but the East Bengal defense led by Acosta worked well to thwart every single attempt made on their goal.
It was end-to-end stuff in the latter stages of the game as the two teams searched for a late winning goal but were unable to found it as the game ended 2-2.