SILIGURI: Kingfisher East Bengal rode a Do Dong brace (40′, 73′) to prevail over their arch rivals Mohun Bagan, who have halved the deficit with Yusa Katsumi scoring in the 82nd minute, at the Kanchenjunga Stadium in Siliguri on Saturday. Jeje Lalpekhlua got an opportunity to salvage a draw for the Mariners from the 6-yard spot but his miss left the title race wide open.
Kingfisher East Bengal coach Biswajit Bhattacharya made four changes from their last win against Aizawl FC. Rahul Bheke and Arnab Mondal featured in the defence in place of Harmanjot Singh Khabra and Sehnaj Singh. Shylo Mama and Joaquim Abranches were dropped in favour of Cavin Lobo and Sanju Pradhan. Bernard Mendy started up front as an auxiliary striker alongside Ranti Martins.
The ‘visitors’ Mohun Bagan had Pronay Halder, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Pritam Kotal back from their national duty and they were brought in the starting eleven at the expenses of Prabir Das, Souvik Chakraborty, and Subhash Singh. Sony Norde, who is back from his national duty, did not even feature in the bench owing to his sustained injury.
It was a high impact start with both sides getting a sniff of goal early on. Glen shot one over the bar after getting the better of Arnab in a one on one situation near the box.
Mohun Bagan were awarded a free kick from close range but Katsumi only managed to curl the ball wide of the post. Glen missed a goal in a similar fashion from open play minutes later.
A little after the half-an-hour mark, Korean winger Dong Do-Hyun was introduced in place of Abinash Ruidas on the left flank. His presence filled in a new purpose in the Red and Golds intent to go forward and take on the opponents.
The home side were awarded a penalty in the 38th minute when Luciano Sobrosa pulled down Ranti Martins inside the box. The Brazilian was booked as a result and Dong stepped up to take the spot-kick.
South Korean Dong scored his first ever Hero I-League goal as he targeted the top corner of the net with Debjit Majumder failing to comprehend the shot as Kingfisher East Bengal drew the first blood having sent the 24-thousand odd crowds into a delirium.
A couple of minutes later, Mohun Bagan assistant coach Shankar Lal Chakraborty was given marching orders by referee Santosh Kumar for repeated dissent. Mohun Bagan suddenly were without a coaching figure on the bench as Sanjoy Sen was serving his 4-match suspension.
On the stroke of half-time, Katsumi floated in a free-kick which found its way to Dhanachandra Singh at the far post. The left-back managed to keep the ball in play before Luciano’s weakened nudge went over the bar as Kingfisher East Bengal went into the break with a 1-0 lead.
On the hour mark, Do Dong-Hyun missed an excellent opportunity to double their lead. Lobo sent the ball in from the right and Ranti got the better of Luciano, heading the ball on target. Debjit did well to keep it out and Dong latched onto the rebound inside the six-yard box but he failed to slot the ball home, managing only to hit the side-netting.
Two minutes later, Bello Rassaq pulled off a goal-line save. Debjit came off his line to sweep away Dhanachandra’s run in. However, his clearance only went as far as Glen whose attempt at the empty net was thwarted by a brilliant block by the Nigerian defender.
Cornell Glen was guilty of missing another opportunity to pop a goal. Jeje crossed into an empty space but with only the keeper to beat, the ball had an awkward bounce after Glen decided to control it but it was too late as Barreto landed himself safely on the ball.
Do Dong-Hyun scored his brace in the 74th minute. The Korean went past five bodies in midfield with ease and nudged past Kinshuk Debnath to before he slotted the ball into the net with a delightful left footer.
Skipper Katsumi Yusa headed in the ball in the 83rd minute after Pritam Kotal crossed the ball from the right. Rahul Bheke made a meal of his mark as Yusa comes in front of the full back to deposit the ball past Barreto.
Right before the ninety-minute mark, Kingfisher East Bengal earned five consecutive corners but none was converted successfully.
However, there was a late twist in the tale as Sehnaj Singh let Jeje earn a soft penalty as the former Bagan player brought down the striker.
Luis Barreto emerged the hero in the spot kick as the Goan was successful in stopping Jeje’s effort, diving to this right. The deputy Indian skipper was left red-faced as the Mariners’ fans fell aghast.
Kingfisher East Bengal secured a 2-1 win in the Kolkata Derby, one which saw them move to within two points of Mohun Bagan with a game in hand. The loss means that after going unbeaten in the Hero I-League for 11 consecutive matches, the Mariners have suffered back to back losses making the race for the title steamy in this final phase.