East Bengal’s lack of quality becomes evident in derby loss…
Joseba Beitia (18′) opened the scoring while Papa Babacar Diawara (65′) doubled the lead for the home team. Marcos De la Espada (71′) gave his side a glimmer of hope when he reduced the deficit but could not turn the tables in the end.
It was a brisk start to the match with both the teams firing on all cylinders right from the first whistle. Mohun Bagan were giving away cheap free-kicks and the red and golds could have taken an early lead if they had the most of a Lalrindika Ralte free-kick.
But after the opening 10 minutes, Mohun Bagan slowly started to take the game by the scruff of its neck. Fran Gonzalez sat deep while Joseba Beitia was orchestrating play from an advanced position. The Spaniard was combining well with Nongdamba Naorem who happened to be the livewire on the left flank. The youngster was regularly making inroads in East Bengal’s defence and Kamalpreet Singh at right back was having a torrid time in containing him.
East Bengal’s resistance was finally broken down when Beitia drew first blood in the 18th minute. A brilliant give-and-go between Beitia and Naorem did the trick. The Kerala Blasters loanee once again dribbled past Kamalpreet and set up Beitia who calmly put his header beyond the reach of Mawia.
The maroon and green brigade did not put the pedal off the gas after going ahead and started pressing for their insurance goal. Bagan’s midfield trio of Beitia-Naorem-Suhair were running riot in midfield and East Bengal had their backs pinned on the wall.
They were losing the individual battles and Menendez’s men looked a cluster of individuals rather than a team. Aidara was given the responsibility of marking Beitia and the Senegalese midfielder looked out of his wits.
The best chance of the half for East Bengal came on the 37th minute from a set-piece. Didika curled a free-kick which was dealt unconvincingly by Sankar. Aidara picked up a loose ball and set up Santos but the Spaniard failed to head in from close range.
Crespi stood like a rock in defense and denied Diawara at least twice at the end of first half to keep the scoreline unchanged.
East Bengal started showing some composure after coming out of the tunnel. They were threatening Bagan’s defense with set-pieces and Vicuna’s men started looking out of sorts.
Shankar brought down Espada inside the box and it would have been a clear penalty if the striker had not handed the ball while trying to control it.
It was almost against the run of play that Bagan scored their second. Beitia floated in an inch-perfect corner and Diawara rose the highest to nod it home. After going down by two goals the century-old club started attacking with more intent and purpose.
They were rewarded for their persistence in the 71st when Espada pulled one back. Edmund Lalrindika produced a defense splitting through ball and the Spanish striker who was hardly involved in the game, made his presence felt when he rifled a shot past Sankar Roy. They came agonisingly close to find the leveller in the 80th minute when Juan Mera’s screamer crashed at the crossbar and came back to play.
East Bengal kept churning out chances but were not clinical in front of goal. The likes of Santos and Mera were getting ample opportunities to wrap their laces but a lack of accuracy was not helping their cause.
With this win, Mohun Bagan strengthen their grip on the top of the table with 17 points from eight matches. Whereas, Menendez has a tough task ahead of him as this was East Bengal’s third consecutive defeat. He must chalk out a course correction before they fly to Coimbatore to face Chennai City on January 25.