East Bengal break the Derby jinx

Laldanmawia Ralte scores a brace in thrilling victory

By A Staff Reporter in Calcutta
  • Published 17.12.18, 3:53 AM
  • Updated 17.12.18, 9:49 AM
  • 3 mins read
Goalmouth action before East Bengal’s third goal on Sunday. The Telegraph picture

The Derby jinx is finally over for East Bengal.

The last time East Bengal had won the Derby was in April 2, 2016. And the next win came at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday. In between, they never managed to beat Mohun Bagan even though they a got walkover in a CFL Derby in September 2016.

Sunday’s thrilling 3-2 win in the I-League Derby should give East Bengal coach Alejandro Garcia a reason to smile. The way his men fought back after being down by an Azharuddin Mallick strike in the 13th minute spoke volumes about the team’s character.

“The boys played really well today. I am very happy with the team’s performance,” a relieved Alejandro said at the post-match media conference. Bagan may argue that they did not have Sony Norde, who’s nursing an injury, and they were a man short for the last 30 minutes. But it was East Bengal’s day on Sunday.

Laldanmawia Ralte (17th and 62nd) and Joby Justin (44th) were on target for the winners and Dipanda Dicka made it 3-2 in the 75th.

As referee R. Venkatesh blew the final whistle and the East Bengal players took the lap of honour, the fans cheered them on. And they had to… A victory after so many months would be cherished for long by the fans and the players.

Also, Alejandro, who was under tremendous pressure following a slew of pathetic displays, would breathe easy for the time being. A defeat on Sunday would have surely given more credence to the clamour to sack the Spaniard.

East Bengal’s new recruit Jaime Colado played well in bits. Agreed, it was his first match and that too a Derby, but it looked like Colado disappeared after the initial 35 minutes. The man who stole the show was Ralte Junior with a brace and an assist. What else can you ask for in a Derby! He was everywhere on the field and rightly adjudged the Man of the Match.

Mohun Bagan coach Shankarlal Chakraborty too should take the blame for this defeat. He had no business replacing goal-scorer Azharuddin with Sheikh Faiaz, as that changed the complexion of the game.

Bagan shot ahead in the 13th minite. An Omar Elhussieny turn left Lalram Chullova flummoxed. Omar then sent in a measured low centre from the left and Azharuddin tapped it home.

Four minutes later, it was 1-1. Colado centred one to Joby, who played it to Laldanmawia Ralte. Ralte Junior then ensured he made no mistake.

Bagan appealed for an offside, but referee Venkatesh stood his ground. Televison replays clearly showed Lalchhawnkima played Ralte Junior on when Joby released the ball. Shilton Paul, the Bagan goalkeeper who was on the bench, was shown the yellow card for protesting.

In the 44th minute, East Bengal shot ahead. Colado laid it off for Manoj Mohammed whose cross was headed into Joby’s path by Ralte Junior. And Joby, probably the most improved player under Alejandro, acrobatically volleyed home.

Eze Kingsley and Lalchhaawnkima should have marked Joby, but were hopelessly out of position.

In the 60th minute, Bagan were a man down as a petulant Kingsley was given marching order after a double yellow. Earlier in the 12th minute, he had hit Colado on the face and then brought down Joby. Throughout he was living dangerously and that he stayed till the hour-mark was mainly due to Venkatesh’s benevolence.

From the ensuing free-kick, East Bengal made it 3-1. Lalrindika Ralte’s free-kick was headed by Ralte Junior and Bagan goalie Shankar Roy blocked it initially. But the rebound was prodded home by Ralte Junior, as East Bengal supporters never celebrated a goal like this.

And then 15 minutes before regulation time, Bagan made it 2-3. Arijit Bagui’s centre after Borja Perez’s half-hearted clearance found Dipanda Dicka whose rasping shot found the target. Strangely, none of the East players followed the ball to hassle the Cameroonian.

East Bengal, though, could have made it 4-2 in the 85th minute. But Joby missed a sitter with only the Bagan goalkeeper to beat. Colado also missed a clear chance at the fag end of the game.

Soon after, there was the final whistle, followed by unbridled euphoria at the East Bengal camp. After all, East Bengal have won a Derby for the first time in almost three years. They do have every reason to celebrate.