It was almost as if we were witnessing a repetation of the Calcutta Football League (CFL 2015) match between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan that took place last September in Kolkata. This time, however, the venue was the Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri, but the result was the same.
The star of the match, incidentally, also the same — South Korean attacking midfielder Do Dong Hyun.
The 22-year-old scored a brace as East Bengal got past Mohun Bagan with a 2-1 scoreline Saturday, also handing the defending champions their second defeat of the I-League 2016 season. Indian hotshot Jeje Lalpekhlua had a massive chance to level the scores at the death but nerves got the better of him.
One of the key features of a fierce Kolkata derby is at one point of the game, tempers reach a new high and we witnessed that once more. The temperament and the intensity in the match was evident from both sides right from the start and as the clock kept ticking, the match got more aggressive.
Mohun Bagan were simply overpowering East Bengal in the opening minutes of the game with Cornell Glen carving out several chances but as the minutes passed, the Red and Golds steadily got a control of things and having the lion's share of ball possession actually worked in favour of them. The frustration in the faces of the Bagan players was prominent enough.
Luciano Sobrosa lost his composure as he tugged Ranti Martins' shirt inside the Bagan box and committed an absolute needless foul on the Nigerian in the 38th minute. The Brazilian defender not only received a yellow card but also gave his team a lot to worry as they were asked to defend a penalty.
Dong Hyun, who came on for Abhinash Ruidas in the first half itself, blasted the top of the net with his world-class penalty kick in the 40th minute to give East Bengal the one goal cushion going into half time. Two minutes later, it was another embarrassing moment for the defending I-League champions as assistant coach Shankarlal Chakraborty was sent to the sidelines after a heated argument with the referee.
Also, just before the break, East Bengal's Bello Rasaq became the second man to get a booking inside the half for a mistimed tackle on Glen. There was a good chance for Mohun Bagan to get the equaliser as Yusa Katsumi took a free-kick from just outside the box. However, East Bengal custodian Luis Barretto just got his hand on the ball to clear it out of the danger zone.
The second half of the game was football at its very best as the choc-a-bloc stadium in Siliguri witnessed moments of magic and misses of the highest level. Glen had a stunning effort in the 56th minute of the match as his lofted shot from way outside the box saw the ball enter into the net, only to be ruled offside.
A couple of minutes later, we got to witness possibly the miss of the I-League season from Dong Hyun as the South Korean completely failed to slot a lose ball inside the goal from a ridiculously-close distance. The miss did trouble him and it was evident as he scored his second goal of the day in the 74th minute, getting past the Bagan defenders with ease and making it all too difficult for Debjit Majumder to make a save.
Mohun Bagan never really gave up until the end. Glen, Katsumi, Jeje and Pronay Haldar tried their best to do something to at least bring some smiles in the face of their fans. And they were successful. Off a wonderful cross from Kotal inside the East Bengal box, Japanese winger Katsumi reduced the lead for the Red and Golds as he rose higher than Rahul Bheke to smash the ball inside the net with a powerful header in the 82nd minute.
The champions got their luck back in the dying moments of the match but nerves and tension overpowered that luck. Jeje unbelievably missed a penalty awarded to his team in the fourth additional minute following the designated 90 minutes of the game after a reckless foul by Sehnaj Singh. Barretto stood his ground and made the stop rather comfortably. It was a forgettable moment for Mohun Bagan.