Kolkata: Defending champions East Bengal put up a spirited second-half show to pull back from a two-goal deficit and hold Mohun Bagan 2-2 in the Calcutta Football League derby here at a Saltlake Stadium, Sunday.
Eyeing their first Calcutta Football League Premier Division A title since 2010, the Mariners struck twice — Pintu Mahato and Henry Kisseka — inside 30 minutes to dominate the proceedings, despite the presence of Costa Rican World Cupper Johnny Acosta who made his debut in red and gold colours.
But just before the change over, Acosta finally made his presence felt to pull one back in the 45+1 minute, while Laldanmawia Ralte brought the equaliser in the 60th minute in front of 65,000-plus crowd in the season’s first derby.
The result meant that East Bengal are yet to win in last seven derbies and it’s a setback to their title aspirations.
Both teams now have 20 points each from eight matches and a same goal difference (+13) but Mohun Bagan are ahead having scored more goals (16), compared to East Bengal’s 14.
While all eyes were on Acosta, it was a 21-year-old Mahato who took the spotlight drawing the first blood with his bullet like shot in the 20th minute.
A product of Mohun Bagan’s youth system, Mahato converted Arijit Bagui’s cross from the right with precision, as East Bengal looked in disarray.
Mohun Bagan showed mobility in the midfield and another lesser known player, Bagui, who was roped in from Kalighat MS, assisted in their second goal scored by Kisseka in the 30th minute.
Receiving the ball from Bagui from the right-flank, the Ugandan unleashed a ferocious drive that beat both Acosta and Mehtab Singh to hit the back of the net.
Having re-arranged their central defence to accommodate Acosta, East Bengal’s defence struggled before Acosta finally made his presence felt, scoring from a rebound off his second attempt in a goalmouth melee.
Ralte finally restored parity with a curling corner by Lalrindika Ralte which was somehow saved by Shilton Paul but the former slotted the ball home from the rebound.