East Bengal rode on Nigerian Ranti Martins’ brace to triumph 3-1 over Mohun Bagan Sunday before over 90,000 spectators in the season’s first Kolkata derby – the 150th between the two sides whose soccer rivalry dates back to the 1920s.
Joaquim Abranches was the other scorer for the winners, while C.S. Sabeeth netted the only goal for Mohun Bagan in the highly charged Kolkata Football League premier division match at the Salt Lake stadium.
East Bengal went ahead in the 13th minute through a penalty kick awarded after Cavin Lobo was brought down by Alao Fatai Adisa. Martins calmly put the ball home as Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Shilton Pal misjudged the Nigerian’s intention and dived at the opposite end.
The Bagan players and the team officials, however, disputed the spot kick, arguing there was no contact between Adisa and Lobo. But referee Pranjal Banerjee stood firm.
Stung by the reverse, the defending champions upped the ante and restored parity eight minutes later by finishing off Jeje Lalpekhlua’s centre that eluded East Bengal’s jittery goalkeeper Abhijit Mondal.
Mohun Bagan then controlled proceedings and Japanese import Japanese recruit Katsumi Yusa’s firm shot was somehow saved by Mondal.
But it was clearly East Bengal’s day.
In the dying moments of the first half, Abranches’s free kick deflected off Fatai and went in after grazing the hand of Shilton Pal.
Leading 2-1 at the break, East Bengal got the insurance goal in the 50th minute as Martins connected an Abranches from the right with a brilliant low header that gave no chance to Paul.
Martins could have completed a hat-trick, but he failed to direct the all into the open net in the 76th minute. Roberts Lalthalmuana had set it up for the striker, who joined East Bengal from United Football Club.
A minute later, a sitter came Bagan’s way, but Cameroon striker Pierre Boya could not score form inside the box off a Katsumi centre.
After five matches, East Bengal occupy the fourth position logging ten points. Bagan are a rung lower and a goal less than their arch-rivals.
East Bengal’s victory have come as a big sigh of relief for the club supporters, after days of anxiety following the arrest of top official Debabrata Sarkar in the multi-crore rupees Saradha chit fund scandal.