Monday, 10 June 2013

East Bengal 4-1 Mohun Bagan : The historical 1997 Federation Cup Semifinal

Arguably, the most memorable Kolkata derby of all took place in 1997 when a remarkable crowd of 131,000 - a record attendance for any sport in India filled a heaving Salt Lake Stadium. Appropriately enough, India's most recognizable footballer, Bhaichung Bhutia, took centre stage, scoring a hat-trick as East Bengal triumphed 4-1 in the semi-final of the Federation Cup.

The clash in the Fed Cup semi-final was unarguably the most eagerly anticipated match in the long history of the derby. The battle royale of Indian football was taken to a new level by the most intense coaching rivalry of Indian football – P.K Banerjee vs Amal Dutta. P.K and Amal are two of the most successful coaches in India, and have coached both the big clubs sometime or other. Over the years, they have shared a keen rivalry. The sharp contrast between these two makes this rivalry even more intriguing. P.K is the brilliant man-manager who likes to work with superstars;  Dutta on the other hand, is the eccentric tactician who banks on young and unproven players.
Amal Dutta, a pioneer, had introduced the 3 back Diamond System that season. It was an overtly offensive tactic, which relied on 7-8 players moving into opposition half in waves of attacks. Cheema Okorie wreaked havoc, as Bagan vanquished Chuchill Brothers 6-0 in the Fed Cup quarter final. The semi-final was not just a clash of eternal rivals, but also a clash of two tactical minds.

The match was eagerly anticipated – a record 131,000 (still an Asian record) thronged to the Salt Lake stadium, while millions watched from home. Dutta, infamous for his colourful pre-match comments, had called Baichung “chung chung” and Samuel Omollo as “omelette”. P.K, the shrewd motivator that he is, used these comments to fire up his players. He also replaced his first choice full-backs to field Dulal Biswas and Amitabha Chanda, thereby out-maneuvering Dutta.
As expected, Bagan went into first gear from the word “go”. In the first 25 minutes, they accumulated 5-6 corners, but nothing came out from those corners. Omolo and Noushad Musah had rendered Abdul Khaleq and Cheema Okorie inactive. East Bengal survived the early pressure and slowly took control of the midfield. Nazimul Haque drew first blood with a wonderful side volley to make it 1-0.
After half-time, the Baichung show began. He leapt brilliantly to connect a corner from Somatai Saiza to make it 2-0. When Cheema made it 2-1, hopes of a Bagan comeback were revived. The Sikkimese sniper ensured Bagan’s defeat with two more goals in the next twenty minutes; both these goals came from through-balls, as the high backline of Mohun Bagan were caught out of position. Amal Dutta’s strategy of going on all-out attack without defending properly brought about his downfall. The Bagan defence huffed and puffed to contain Bhutia’s blistering pace, failing completely in their efforts. Baichung created history by becoming the first player to score a hat-trick in the Kolkata derby. Astonishingly, East Bengal didn’t win Fed Cup that year, despite this brilliant performance in semi-final. They were undone by a brilliant brace from Bruno Coutinho , as Salgaocar won 2-1.

1997 Federation Cup semifinal line up vs Mohun Bagan.

Match score :
13-July-1997: East Bengal Club 4-1 Mohun Bagan AC
 [E: 25 Nazimul Haque,46,85,88 Bhaichung Bhutia; M: 66 Chima Okorie]

Here are the match videos:

Source :