East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan: East Bengal's 1658 Days' Wait Ends! Watch Nandhakumar Sekar's Goal That Overpowered Arch-rivals MBSG
For East Bengal fans, Saturday brought in the good news that they had been waiting for 1658 days. That is a long-awaited victory over arch-rivals Mohun Bagan Super Giant
For East Bengal fans, Saturday brought in the good news that they had been waiting for 1658 days. That is a long-awaited victory over arch-rivals Mohun Bagan Super Giant. For that was the last time, the red and gold brigade won over the green-and-maroon camp. When it came, it happened in one of the oldest club competitions of Asia, the Durand Cup. Seasoned Nandhakumar Sekar probably enjoyed the most defining day of his football career with a swerving left-footer that ended East Bengal's long wait in the Kolkata Derby.
The 60th minute goal also put Mohun Bagan's smooth entry into the quarter-finals on hold as East Bengal can pip them to a last eight spot if they happen to win against Punjab FC in their last group league encounter on Wednesday.
Mohun Bagan, who completed their group A outings with six points from three matches while East Bengal have four points from two games.
Six group toppers and two best runners-up make up the last-eight.
Under Bengaluru FC's Indian Super League winning coach Carles Cuadrat, East Bengal looked much more compact and the forward lineup got back their usual flair with Nandhakumar's international class strike. The former Odisha FC midfielder capitalised on an assist from Saul Crespo from the right flank as he smartly outfoxed Mohun Bagan's India international Aniruddh Thapa with an outside dodge.
Showing perfect composure, the 27-year-old then used his instep to curl one past outstretched hands of Mohun Bagan goalie Vishal Kaith into the far corner of the net.
The win for East Bengal ended defending ISL champions Mohun Bagan's dominance that stretched for more than four years and six months.
East Bengal had last won against Mohun Bagan, a 2-0 result, way back on January 27, 2019 in the I-League.
Since then, Mohun Bagan have won eight on the trot and drew once against East Bengal across all competitions.
It was also a big setback for the Mariners who will open their AFC Cup campaign in four days' time at the same venue against a team from Nepal.
In front of a packed crowd of 50,000 plus at the Salt Lake Stadium, Cuadrat left a visible impact early on as the midfield looked much compact and had the better of ball possession, while the forward pressed early on in a goalless, but thrilling first-half.
They also had the first shot on target from a 11th minute free-kick but Jordan Elsey could not time his header to perfection and Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Kaith had an easy interception.
The attack was relentless and seven minutes later, Naorem Mahesh beat Mohun Bagan defence to set it up for Javier Siverio, but Brendan Hamill came in his way for a key save.
East Bengal had another chance in the 23rd minute when Nandhakumar wasted an opportunity after being set up by Naorem and Siverio.
But it was their goalkeeper Prabhaukhan Singh Gill who made an impression in the first-half with a fine save in the 45+2nd minute, that denied Mohun Bagan the much-anticipated lead.
Harmanjot Singh Khabra fouled and Boumous drilled in a perfect free-kick as a full-stretched Gill jumped high with a confident save.
After scoring the much-awaited goal, East Bengal closed ranks and thwarted Mohun Bagan's every raid.
Manvir Singh and Dimitri Petratos combined to try and score in the 58th minute but East Bengal defence foiled their attempt.
The last 10 minutes played under a heavy downpour as East Bengal managed to hold on to their slender lead.
Cuadrat had a 4-4-2 formation to start off with Borja and Siverio leading the attack, while Lal Chungnunga and Spaniard Jordan Elsey helmed the central defence.
While Sadiku and Hugo Boumous led the attack, Thapa was in-charge of the central midfield with Glan Martins. Rai and Subhashish Bose took care of the flanks in the defence helmed by Anwar Ali and Brendan Hamill.
With PTI inputs