A Mohun Bagan fan couldn’t have asked for more on Sunday with fate and football both combined to tick four boxes on a Mariner’s checklist as they downed East Bengal in I-League 2016-17’s Kolkata Derby in Siliguri.
Aizawl FC losing, Sony Norde getting his elusive derby goal, winning the derby and then leapfrogging East Bengal on the points table - all happened within the space of fewer than three hours.
It all started in the dying embers of a game between Bengaluru FC and Aizawl FC in the I-League. East Bengal and Mohun Bagan players were undergoing their warm-up drillson the Kachenjunga pitch. A section of East Bengal fans erupted after the television set kept in the press box flashed that Marjan Jugovic had just scored for Bengaluru FC at the death to relegate Aizawl to a 1-0 defeat.
The news spread like wildfire and every soul in the stadium had a smile. That though was the first and last time both sets of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal fans agreed upon on the night.
As the teams were announced for the game, Sanjoy Sen made an interesting tweak from last Saturday’s game against Bengaluru FC. He chose to deploy Under-22 player Azharuddin Mallick on the right flank and put Katsumi Yusa in a central midfield role to accommodate Balwant Singh alongside Darryl Duffy upfront.
Trevor Morgan too decided to keep his preferred diamond formation at bay and chose to field Romeo Fernandes over Jackichand Singh, who was fresh from international duty with a victorious India side.
It was the 34th minute of the game when Romeo obstructed Norde on the turn and referee Rowan Arumughan gifted Bagan the free-kick. The Haitian obliged from ‘Sony-zone’ as his resultant effort lodged inside the net.
Finally, Norde had broken the tag of not standing up to the ‘derby pressure’. His first goal against East Bengal in his fifth appearance against them - The Green and Maroons were on track for something great it seemed.
Then came the moment of sinister madness from teenager Azharuddin. It would have been the yellow card he would be the happiest to receive in his fledgling of a career thanks to the scorcher of a goal from 24 yards out. His first ever goal in the derby too. In fact, this was the first goal scored by a Bengali in the I-League's Kolkata derby (In Calcutta Football League, the last Bengali to score in a Kolkata derby was MohammedRafique in 2015)since Syed Rahim Nabi found the back of the net in 2008.
Sanjoy Sen left Trevor Morgan far behind in a distant second when it came to tactical battle. Even though Katsumi Yusa did not see the ball much as he does usually, Bagan made full use of the ground by spraying the ball to their wide players who would run at the East Bengal defence.
Pritam Kotal, a cult-hero in the Bagan ranks for his crosses down the right channel only overlapped Mallickthrice in the entire game - a total paradigm shift from what Mohun Bagan usually do on the field.
What caught Morgan by his heels was how Sehnaj Singh and Anas Edathodika shielded Romeo Fernandes from having having a go at Raju Gaikwad, who was a makeshift left-back.
Things turned ugly for East Bengal as Willis Plaza’s red card was followed by Wedson Anselme limping. The Haitian was of course, not totally fit for the game after the suffered a groin pull right after scoring at Bengaluru last month and only returned to action four days ago in a practice match against East Bengal U-18 in which he scored a goal.
Jackichand Singh’s introduction was too late to create any considerable impact as fans were left bemused with why did the East Bengal officials brought him in the first place when he does not fit into Morgan’s system.
The late goal by Rowllin Borges - a player who was brilliant in the first half, was very late indeed to pull off a magical comeback andhushed voicesof Morgan resigning started all around the East Bengal galleries as soon as the referee blew the whistle.
Sen would cherish the victory even more as he completely outclassed his British counterpart with a differentstrategy.
Mohun Bagan would now start their ascent up the hills with three tough away fixtures remaining - most noticeably at Shillong Lajong next Wednesday and Aizawl later and sandwiched between would be a trip to Ludhiana to face Minerva Punjab.
East Bengal will relatively have ‘easier’ opposition at home in their last three games but aretwo points behind Mohun Bagan, who have a game in hand will be a tall ladder to climb in what could possibly be their last chance to win their maiden I-League title.
This derby was a perfect one for a Mohun Bagan fan as they also got a fifth box check-marked in their first ever win over East Bengal in Siliguri.
However, there was one thing missing from the game - a WENGER OUT banner.