Sumeet Passi’s own goal sealed East Bengal’s destiny, and by the slimmest of margins, ATK Mohun Bagan won again.
An own goal by Sumeet Passi doomed East Bengal’s fate as ATK Mohun Bagan returned to winning ways by thinnest of margins in the marquee ‘Kolkata Derby’ of Durand Cup in Kolkata on Sunday. Playing in front of a packed crowd of about 70,000, Mohun Bagan went ahead in a freak manner when Liston Colaco’s low flag-kick found Eliandro make a hash of a clearance not being to get a touch and the ball deflected into the net off an onrushing Passi, who was literally blindsided and couldn’t move his body out of line.
If anyone was to be blamed, it was the Brazilian forward, who had come down to defend his team’s citadel.
The result also revived the 16-time champions’ hopes in the tournament as they secured their first win after a shocking defeat to I-league outfit Rajasthan United and a draw against Mumbai City FC.
Mohun Bagan now have four points from three matches in group B and face Indian Navy in their decisive concluding group fixture on September 5.
The Kolkata Derby was back at the Salt Lake Stadium for the first time since January 19, 2020 when they last clashed in the I-League.
Stephen Constantine’s men could barely hold forte as Mohun Bagan kept up pressure from both flanks during the first 45 minutes.
But all their hard work went down the drain due to Eliandro’s indiscretion.
It could have been worse for East Bengal who almost conceded a second in the 54th minute but Kamaljit Singh fisted away a sure shot goal from star India midfielder Ashique Kuruniyan.
East Bengal came out with a more attacking intent in the second-half but there was little support for their Brazilian forward Eliandro, while their long ball strategy was easily dealt by the Mariners.
A 64 per cent first-half possession underlined the Mariners dominating display up front as they controlled the match playing deep into the box.
But credit should be given to the newly-formed East Bengal line-up under the former Indian coach as they held the Mariners with their resolute defence helmed superbly by Spanish centre-back Ivan Gonzalez.
Charis Kyriakou was also good, while Lalchungnunga was at his resolute best as they did nothing wrong till that split of second lapse by Passi.
East Bengal slowly tried to get into the game after the half an hour mark and got their first shot at goal from a powerful Gonzalez long ranger that narrowly missed the target.
Soon they further raided the Mohun Bagan half with a counter-attacking move generated by Eliandro from the left but the three-man attack failed to get past the Mohun Bagan defence.
Tempers flared up soon after the changeover when the young Asish Rai swung his arm on Gonzalez only to escape with a yellow card.
Former India U-17 World Cupper Aniket Jadhav’s shot in the 49th minute but the missed the direction .East Bengal are now yet to win in a derby since securing a 2-0 victory in the I-League on January 27, 2019.