| Mohun Baganís Marcos Parreira goes past a couple of East Bengal defenders during their Super Six match at the Salt Lake Stadium on Thursday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta: There was plenty of action on and off the field. Three red cards, players trading blows, charging towards the referee after the match, a coach manhandling a rival supporter. No goals were scored though.
East Bengal played with nine men for 35 minutes against Mohun Baganís ten and still salvaged a goalless draw at Salt Lake Stadium in Thursdayís Super Division League match. It kept them ahead of the rest and dented Mohun Baganís fading chances of forcing an exciting finish.
The 1 lakh packing the stands saw these stars such as Jose Ramirez Barreto of Mohun Bagan and East Bengalís Mike Okoro and yet, the man of the day was referee Subrata Sarkar. Bengalís only referee on the current Fifa panel effected three expulsions ó a rare occurrence in city soccer.
The unwanted started taking centrestage after a decent start by East Bengal. But just as it seemed they would gradually wear down their rivals, things swung out of control in the 23rd minute. It effectively upset the rhythm of both teams as the coaches had to fast redraw strategy which were different from what they initially planned.
Barreto had just played a quick one-two with fellow Brazilian Marcos Parreira and about to shoot at goal before being brilliantly tackled by Mahesh Gawli. A brawl broke out in seconds and players of both teams were seen punching and kicking each other.
East Bengal defender Dipak Mondal and Lolendra Singh of Mohun Bagan were ejected though from a distance, it seemed Debjit Ghosh had escaped despite being in the thick of things.
He made Ďamendsí soon. Debjit was probably a bit unlucky for being booked for what appeared to be a fair tackle in the 35th minute. But he was rightly shown the second and decisive yellow 11 minutes after the break for needlessly stamping on the back of Babun Kar.
Coming back to football, the period after Debjitís expulsion was clearly the highlight of the game. East Bengal had their back to the wall and Mohun Bagan a great chance to seal a win they desperately needed. To astonish all, Mohun Bagan never succeeded in making their numerical advantage count.
There was this huge discontent in the Mohun Bagan camp for the referee not awarding a penalty in their favour when Mehtab Hossainís attempted centre hit Gawliís arm inside the box. The players charged at the referee after the final whistle and police intervened to restore normalcy.
None, however, pointed to the fact that not a single move saw Mohun Bagan ó boasting Barreto, Marcos and Rennedy Singh ó outnumber or outpace the East Bengal defence.
Despite starting with just one striker, East Bengal got two clear chances in the first half. Shylo Malsawmtluanga got hold of a clearance from the deep in the seventh minute and ran through the defence before setting up Okoro inside the box. The Nigerian had time to control and turn but went for a first-timer which sailed over the goal.
Then, in first half injury time, Bijen Singhís cross found Douglas in handshaking distance with the goalkeeper, but quite inexplicably, the Brazilian failed to shoot. He had earlier forced a smart save from Prasanta Dora with a free-kick.
Mohun Baganís only genuine chance, following the move of the day, had come in the 32nd minute. Rennedy started the raid by cleverly releasing Barreto in the open space towards the right. The Brazilian waltzed in and essayed a low cross but Marcos, the only time he got past his marker, saw his diving header graze the horizontal before going out.
East Bengal: Sandip Nandy, Mahesh Gawli, Dipak Mondal, M. Suresh, Douglas da Silva, Debjit Ghosh, Sur Kumar Singh (Subhashish Roy Chowdhury, 46), Shylo Malsawmtluanga, Sashti Duley, Dipankar Roy (Bijen Singh, 38), Mike Okoro.
Mohun Bagan: Prasanta Dora, Babun Kar, Sanjiv Maria, Debkumar Sashmal, Rishi Kapoor, Lolendra Singh, Mehtab Hossain (Basudeb Mondal, 85). Hardip Gill (Hardip Saini, 20), Rennedy Singh, Jose Ramirez Barreto, Marcos Parreira.
Referee: Subrata Sarkar.