Tight Kolkata derby ends in goalless draw

Siliguri -- The much-hyped Kolkata derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan at the Kanchenjunga Stadium ended in a goalless draw, with both teams' goalkeepers returning heroes.

On a day when none of the strikers managed to fire a goal, East Bengal's TP Rehenesh was adjudged the Man of the match with his resolute display under the bar in the first half. Mohun Bagan's Debjit Majumder stole the show in the last period with an equally dazzling display.

Mohun Bagan's star Haitian forward Sony Norde looked threatening in the first half, but Trevor Morgan planned well to keep him at bay, with East Bengal's right back doing a fine job.

Norde was kept completely quiet as Morgan employed at least two men to hold him off. Despite the draw, East Bengal remain on top with 20 points from eight matches, while Mohun Bagan remain at second, with 17 points from seven.

There was very little to choose between both the teams as Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen finally replaced Norde in the 86th minute.

Playing in front of a boisterous home support, East Bengal were kept on their toes with the likes of Norde and Darryl Duffy threatening their defence more than once in the first 45 minutes.

But it was the East Bengal goalkeeper Rehenesh who was the star of the first half, thwarting at least a couple of fine chances.

The scenarios turned in the last 45 minutes with East Bengal on the ascent, and it was time for Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Majumder to shine under the bar.

In the 57th minute, Robin Singh headed on a long ball towards Willis Plaza who took a shot, but Majumder displayed some fine reflexes to keep him out. Majumder would make a second fine save in the 84th minute from a through ball.

With 15 minutes left, both teams opted to play safe as the pace declined.

While Mohun Bagan kept piling the pressure, East Bengal received just one half-chance in a 23rd-minute move when Plaza strayed away from a Robin pass on the right flank. The Trinidadian however had a poor finish as his angled shot was not only weak but aimed straight at Majumder.

Barring the solitary chance, the Mariners forward line kept attacking and tempers were seen flying high at the stroke of half-time, resulting in a yellow card for Lalrindika Ralte.

The East Bengal captain looked frustrated and pushed Duffy, instigating a scuffle moments after Mohun Bagan wasted an opportunity to draw first blood with Souvik Chakraborty missing in front of a goal.

Duffy was seen running into East Bengal goalkeeper Rehenesh, something that did not go well with Ralte who pushed the Scot and both the teams joined in the scuffle before an alert referee took control of the situation.

In the 34th minute, Norde's corner almost went straight into the goal but Rehenesh showed good reflexes by palming it away.

Rehenesh had been called into action even in the 14th minute when Mohun Bagan had the first shot on the target from a Katsumi corner.

Norde retrieved the ball from the left, got past two East Bengal defenders, and crossed low to Pritam Kotal, but Kotal's strike was easily held on by Rehenesh.

Having served a one-match suspension, Mehtab Hossain returned for his 54th derby appearance in the only change to the East Bengal XI, while Mohun Bagan rung in four changes to the team that defeated Colombo FC in the AFC Cup.