Calcutta, Aug. 17: An 87-year-old rivalry saw its biggest goal feast today when Mohun Bagan beat East Bengal 4-3 in their Sahara CFL Premier Division match at the Salt Lake stadium.
Never before had seven goals been scored in the city derby, the previous record being five, including East Bengal’s 5-0 victory in the 1975 IFA Shield Final and just a handful of 4-1 and 3-2 results.
Bagan climbed its own peak today, having never scored more than three against its arch-rival.
The big moment came early in the second half when Bagan’s S. Venkatesh made it 4-1 courtesy a defensive error, taking his 118-year-old club to a new height. Alvito D’Cunha and Edmilson made it six and seven for the match, narrowing the margin.
Earlier, Bagan had threatened to avenge the 1975 humiliation by going 3-0 up in the first half, riding goals by Lalawmpuia, Barreto and Venkatesh before D’Cunha struck after the break.
If today’s game was an exception to the historical miserliness of the Big Match — 1-0 has been the typical scoreline down the decades — it may have something to do with the trend in this year’s league.
A total of 69 goals have been scored in 17 games — at 4.06 per match — compared with 93 in 56 last year (1.66 per match) and 111 in 2005 (1.98).
If Sepp Blatter had been here now instead of four months ago, he might have permitted himself a smile. The city’s football may still live in the “past, past century” as the world football boss said, but it’s trying to be an advertisement for his slogan: Go for goals.
Veteran coach Amal Datta said: “The goal rush is a result of the teams’ attempts to come out of the defensive mindset. Earlier, small teams were content with a goalless draw against a Big Three side; now they try to score and win because a top-three position in the local league may lead to an opportunity in the National Football League.”
East Bengal coach Subrata Bhattacharya, still angry with his defence, offered a more mundane reason for today’s glut. “Most of the goals were scored because of defensive lapses,” he said.
“It happens as teams remain in the preparatory mode early in the season,” he added before blaming the referee for his “partiality”.