Mohun Bagan Super Giant drew 2-2 to East Bengal FC as the first Kolkata Derby of the 10th season of the Indian Super League presented an all-time classic at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday.
Antonio Lopez Habas, head coach of the Mariners, had predicted before the game that a match like this could swing different ways in 90 minutes, and so it did with both sides netting once each in either halves to walk away with a point to their names.
East Bengal FC stormed into this clash high on confidence after winning the Kalinga Super Cup, and that was evident in the suddenness with which they got their act running in front of a jam-packed stadium.
Fullback Nishu Kumar lobbed in an inch-perfect delivery for Ajay Chhetri inside the 18-yard box and the young midfielder got to the end of the ball and hammered it home with a full stretched leg extension in the 3rd minute.
Habas’s players were tasked with standing tall to that reputation and they took the first step towards that courtesy of a clinical finish by striker Armando Sadiku in the 17th minute of the game. The goal should actually be a tribute to the skillset of Brendan Hamill, who carved in a delightful delivery that Sadiku broke no sweat in converting to draw the scores level.
The Red & Gold Brigade were in no mood to step back though, and Hamill’s substitution due to an injury in the 52nd minute opened gateways for them. As Glan Martins was settling into the game, Carles Cuadrat’s side stepped up the ante, with Naorem Mahesh Singh earning a foul off Deepak Tangri in the 55th minute.
Captain Cleiton Silva stepped up for spot-kick duties and pulled off a breathtaking panenka that caught Vishal Kaith completely off-guard. The proceedings thereafter suggested that Cuadrat’s side was well on course to rounding off their third Kolkata Derby win of the season, after beating the arch-rivals once each in the Durand Cup and the Super Cup.
Thankfully for Habas, Sahal Abdul Samad came to the rescue, showing a relentless attitude to make something out of the countless loose balls he encountered inside the box as the full-time whistle neared.
After a tremendous passage of play that saw him struggling to recover possession, Sahal squared up a pass for Dimitrios Petratos in the 88th minute, and the forward completed the incomplete task by depositing the ball into the back of the net.