| Sasthi Duley makes a desperate attempt to stop Sunil Chhetri during Saturday's Super Division derby at the Salt Lake Stadium. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta: Subhas Bhowmick took the idea of treating the Super Division derby as a practice match for next week's AFC Cup quarter final too seriously. He accorded Mohun Bagan the same respect as he would Syria's Al Jaish and ended up with a solitary point, when he could have actually picked up the full compliment of three.
Subrata Bhattacharya dared to be bolder, his well-oiled midfield having the defensive-minded East Bengal unit on the run for almost the entire first session. They ran out of steam after change of ends, as the rains pelted down and Bhowmick's men came out of their shell.
In the end, a goalless scoreline perhaps did justice to both teams, though East Bengal could consider themselves a trifle unlucky. An 84th-minute Shylo Malsawmtluanga push hit the base of the crosspiece and stayed put in the puddle before being cleared by Mehrajuddin Wadao, while referee Subrata Sarkar ' who had a forgettable match ' overlooked a Mohun Bagan (Tapan Ghosh) hand-ball inside the penalty box 19 minutes into the game.
The date being 9/11, fingers remained crossed as nearly 70,000 die-hards settled in the stands. Something had to give way, and the heavens opened up like nobody's business. The sweet tinge of green, pre-kick off, soon gave way as 22 pair of boots tortured the Salt Lake Stadium turf.
Mohun Bagan called the shots with Dharamjit Singh, Mehtab Hussain and Sunil Chhetri running the East Bengal defence ragged. Syed Rahim Nabi, a striker thrust into the role of right-back, had a harrowing time keeping tabs on the speedy Dharamjit. The usually reliable Debjit Ghosh wasn't rock-solid, neither was Louis Aniweta.
The man East Bengal depend on so much these days ' Douglas da Silva ' had his mind elsewhere. The Brazilian, cautioned for a nasty tackle, was lucky not to be sent off after arguing with the referee at the slightest provocation. Even Alvito D'Cunha had an off-day, and had to be taken off after an hour.
Five minutes after kick-off, Dharamjit set up Mehtab with a nice little square pass. Turning quickly and seeing Sangram Mukherjee out of position, Mehtab let go an angular left-footer. It curved in wickedly and Sangram reacted in the nick of time to palm the ball away.
Debutant Nigerian Suleiman Hamid, finding the underfoot conditions too heavy for his liking, got hold of a free ball a little later and moved up a few paces before being dispossessed by an Aniweta sliding tackle. On the half-hour, Hamid trapped a Mehtab offering but shot in haste ' straight into Sangram's hands. Mehtab and Dharamjit, on two separate occasions, sent in inviting crosses into the danger zone but neither Hamid nor Chhetri was in position to meet the ball.
East Bengal looked threatening just twice in the entire opening session. In what was the best move of the match, Malsawmtluanga fooled Eduardo and Rishi Kapoor and sent in a measured cross only for Bijen Singh to send his header over the crosspiece.
Then Sashthi Duley, in one of his rare attacking forays, floated one in from the left, but Douglas' glancing header went wide of the second post.
The introduction of the energetic Dipankar Roy brought about a sense of urgency in the East Bengal ranks. He almost did the trick with his first touch of the ball, just failing to direct a Climax Lawrence through into the net.
Nabi ventured up front more often as Dharamjit was tired and Malsawmtluanga showed some enterprise to test the Mohun Bagan defence. East Bengal, unlike in the first half, pushed more men into the Mohun Bagan citadel to support Bijen.
Climax tried a snap right-footer from about 22 yards out which caught Subrata Pal off guard but missed the mark narrowly. Douglas failed miserably with a direct free-kick, from just five yards outside the penalty box.
East Bengal did exert considerable pressure in the final half-hour, but it was too late. The Mohun Bagan defence, ably led by Palash Karmakar and Eduardo, soaked it all up and took home a point which helped them maintain their lead top of the table.
Mohun Bagan: Subrata Pal, Dulal Biswas, Palash Karmakar (Manitombi Singh, 77), Eduardo Coelho, Tapan Ghosh (Mehrajuddin Wadao, 46), Rishi Kapoor, Tomba Singh, Mehtab Hussain (Basudeb Mondal, 62), Dharamjit Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Suleiman Hamid.
East Bengal: Sangram Mukherjee, Syed Rahim Nabi, Debjit Ghosh, Dipak Mondal, Louis Aniweta, Sasthi Duley, S. Malsawmtluanga, Climax Lawrence, Douglas da Silva, Alvito D'Cunha (Dipankar Roy, 59), Bijen Singh.
Referee: Subrata Sarkar.