I-League 2017: Mohun Bagan beat East Bengal in intense derby; close gap on leaders Aizawl FC
Sony Norde's precision free-kick brilliantly complemented by Azharuddin Mullick's terrific strike saw Mohun Bagan beat arch-rivals East Bengal 2-1 to take a giant leap towards winning the I-League title.
Siliguri: Sony Norde's precision free-kick brilliantly complemented by Azharuddin Mullick's terrific strike saw Mohun Bagan beat arch-rivals East Bengal 2-1 to take a giant leap towards winning the I-League title.
In a packed Kanchenjunga Stadium boasting of partisan East Bengal supporters, Norde bent one like Beckham in the 36th minute to give his team the lead.
Eighteen-year-old Azharuddin then doubled the lead in the 43rd minute when he saw TP Rehenesh out of his charge. He kept a nice swinging floater that swerved hitting the post and went into the net.
There was more frustration in store for East Bengal as they were reduced to 10 players after their foreign recruit Willis Plaza was rightfully sent off in the 67th minute during an encounter marred by frayed tempers, especially from the red and gold brigade.
East Bengal pulled one back in the stoppage time through Rowllin Borges (90+2nd) but that was too late.
But it was Norde who upped the ante when he was fouled as his swerving free-kick beat a diving Rehenesh finding the back of the net.
Minutes later, Mohun Bagan dished out another spectacular goal and it was more satisfying coming from the youth recruit Mallick who scored a dream derby goal through a cheeky long-ranger.
Coming on a day Aizawl FC (30 points) lost to Bengaluru FC 0-1, the derby win has put the 2014-15 champions right in the hunt as they are just a point behind the leaders Aizawl with a match in hand.
For East Bengal, their elusive I-League title hopes all but over as they slipped to third place with 27 points after 15 matches.
Having held to a goalless draw in the first leg, the victory is also sweeter for Mohun Bagan as it has come after more than two years with their last win coming on 28 March 2015.
Their anguish was writ large as East Bengal resorted to unnecessary tackles in the second half. After some consultation with the linesman, the referee gave Plaza the marching orders for whacking Anas needlessly.
In the 72nd minute, Gurwinder Singh was given a warning for kicking Norde in frustration as East Bengal clearly had a forgetful outing.
Earlier in the 19th minute when Duffy with a deft flick initiated the move but they wasted the opportunity. Trevor Morgan switched to a safer 4-2-3-1 formation, which unfortunately has not been successful for the red and gold brigade so far.
Rowlin Borges and Mehtab Hossain were included as Lalrindika Ralte was dropped to accommodate Romeo Fernandes, while Morgan benched Chris Payne.
Sen meanwhile has switched to captain Yusa to central midfield in a tactical move with youth recruit Mallick on the right wing, while Duffy and Balwant took control of the attacks up front.
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"Ronaldo? He's back with great motivation," Allegri told a press conference of the five-time Ballon d'Or winner who had been linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain.
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