East Bengal clinched their eighth successive title, and a record 39 times overall, in the Calcutta Football League after holding arch-rivals Mohun Bagan 2-2 in the season’s first derby in Siliguri.
Maintaining their supremacy in the Premier Division A tournament, East Bengal bounced back twice with a calculative strike from man-of-the-match Laldanmawia Ralte (43rd) off a freekick and Al Amna’s 66th minute effort.
Eyeing their first title since 2009, the 29-time champions Mohun Bagan dominated the proceedings right from the start with 20-year-old Azharuddin Mallick’s spirited second minute strike and were 2-1 up in the 49th minute following a goal from Ansumana Kromah.
Two minutes later, Kamo Stephane Bayi wasted a sitter in what could have been a decisive 3-1 lead, virtually shattering their hopes at the packed Kanchenjunga Stadium.
Both teams finished on 23 points but East Bengal emerged winners on a better goal difference of (+21) against Mohun Bagan’s +15.
It was also a brilliant start by Khalid Jamil to win his maiden title for the red-and-gold brigade after scripting a ‘Cindrella moment’ in Indian football by guiding Aizawl FC to I-League Trophy last season.
East Bengal, thus, remained unbeaten in their last 37 CFL matches with their last defeat coming way back in 2014 against Mohammedan Sporting.
This year they have won seven out of eight matches so far and dropped points against Mohammedan in their seventh round clash.
Azharuddin ran down the left flank and provided a pass to Kamo Stephane Bayi inside the box. But Carlyle Mitchell cleared the ball which went to Azharuddin again whose shot took the former’s deflection to go past East Bengal goalkeeper Luis Barreto.
Ralte made it 1-1 from Gabriel Fernandes’ curling free- kick that was received by Lalram Chullova on the left.
Kromah put Mohun Bagan in the lead again from a penalty after Mitchell was brought down by Kamo inside the box.
East Bengal earned a much-needed penalty after Raynier fouled Ralte inside the box as Al Amna converted from the spot to once again help them equalise.
With six minutes to go, Mohun Bagan were reduced to 10 players after captain Kingshuk Debnath were sent off following a double booking.
Mohun Bagan players looked furious at the decision and held up the play protesting vehemently against the referee’s decision.
Referee Ranjit Bakshi restored parity in both the camps as East Bengal too were reduced to 10 players after Surabuddin Mallick fouled from behind to get a double yellow two minutes later.
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