India international Lalrindika Ralte scored a spectacular goal in the 73rd minute to give East Bengal a 1-0 win over arch-rivals Mohun Bagan in a high-voltage round 10 clash of the Airtel I-League.
The season’s first big Kolkata derby — and 306th clash between the two sides overall — was witnessed by a crowd of more than 80,000 in an electrifying atmosphere at the Salt Lake Stadium but produced very few goal scoring chances.
East Bengal had more ball possession but struggled to break down a well ogranised Mohun Bagan backline before Lalrindika fired in a left-footed scorcher from 30 yards to give Armando Colaco a winning start as coach of the Red-and-Gold outfit.
The result ended Mohun Bagan’s four-match unbeaten run and saw East Bengal overtake their arch-rivals. Both sides have 10 points each but Armando Colaco’s side have a superior goal difference and played three games less.
The first real chance of the match fell to Mohun Bagan as skipper Odafa Okolie,who was playing in a deeper role,sent Eric Muranda clear with a lovely through pass but the Kenyan’s effort was saved by Abhijit Mondal and Katsumi Yusa’s shot from the rebound was blocked by Arnab Mondal.
East Bengal’s best opportunity of the opening half came just a few minutes before the interval when Lalrindika’s through ball sent Ryuji Sueoka past the Mohun Bagan defence but goalkeeper Shilton Paul came out on time to collect the ball at the Japanese player’s feet.
It was almost the same pattern in the second half as East Bengal had plenty of possession but did not really trouble the Mohun Bagan defence.
At the other end,Odafa had a golden opportunity to put his side in front but the Mohun Bagan captain’s header from a Pritam Kotal cross went straight at Abhijit Mondal even though he was unmarked.
Both coaches made a substitution each to change as young Ram Malik replaced CS Sabeeth for Mohun Bagan while Colaco brought James Moga in place of Cavin Lobo.
Late in the second half,East Bengal midfield general and skipper Mehtab Hossain came off the field with an injury but just minutes later Lalrindika broke the deadlock with a trademark left-footed effort from 30 yards much to delight of the thousands of East Bengal fans.
Mohun Bagan coach Karim Bencherifa brought in youngsters Sankar Oran and Manish Bhargav in search of the equaliser but it was East Bengal who could have doubled their advantage had Sueoka or Chidi Edeh been a bit more clinical.