22.1.06, Calcutta: East Bengal were held to a barren draw by arch-rivals Mohun Bagan in a 10th National Football League match for the ONGC Cup at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday.
The result may be a relieving one for both the coaches. But for Jahar Das, the task just became more challenging as Bagan are yet to taste victory in this premier tournament.
The red and gold brigade up-front, with injured Bhaichung Bhutia and Mike Okoro, created chances but failed to find the net even on a single occasion. De Ridder’s side were on the attacking mode right from the word go. In the first five minutes, Bagan conceded four-corners, but luckily for them, East Bengal failed to convert.
In fact, the corners would have been better directed if Alvito D’Cunha had been around and coach Phillipe De Ridder accepted the fact that he missed the experience of the injured midfielder.
Had it not been for the profligacy of captain Bhaichung Bhutia, the red and gold brigade should have scored on at least three occasions, having created as many as eight chances in the course of the match.
Just five minutes before the breather, Okoro had a solo run from the centre-half, gave a diagonal pass to Syed Rahim Nabi in the box. Nabi relayed it back to Bhaichung whose right footer fell at the feet of the Bagan goalie Imran Khan. He fumbled but then grabbed the ball safely.
Fourteen minutes after the lemon break, Bhaichung got another chance but failed to deliver again. This time it was Anupam Sarkar’s diagonal pass in the box to the star-striker, who had only the goalie to beat. Bhutia shot wide.
Bagan on the other hand, were disorganised in the mid-field and failed to create any clear scoring chance.
East Bengal: Naseem Akhtar, Anupam Sarkar, Covan Lawrence, Ngassa Martial, Saumik Dey (Sasthi Duley 69), Shylo Malsawmtluanga, Jayanto Sen, Ndem Herve, Syed Rahim Nabi, Mike Okoro, Bhaichung Bhutia.
Mohun Bagan: Imran Khan, Suleiman Firoz, Eduardo Coelho, Mehrajuddin Wadao, Manjit Singh (Basudeb Mondal 78), Tomba Singh, Subhasish Roy Chowdhury (Dharamjit Singh 53), Mehtab Hussain, Coffi Agbessi, Awudu Ibrahim.
Referee: Rizwan-ul-Haque (Delhi).