FULL-TIME: SC East Bengal 0-2 ATK Mohun Bagan [49′ Roy Krishna, 85′ Manvir Singh]
ATK Mohun Bagan made it two wins in two matches with a win in the Kolkata Derby played out in Goa, but ISL debutantes SC East Bengal who were expected to struggle by the naysayers gave a fairly good account of themselves.
SC East Bengal lined themselves up similar to ATK Mohun Bagan with their three at the back featuring Danny Fox, Scott Neville as the right-sided centre-back and Rana Gharami as the left-sided centre back. The winger Surchandra Singh played as a right wing-back and Narayan Das took up position on the left. The midfield comprised of left winger Loken Meitei and Matti Steinmann and the trio of Balwant, Maghoma and Pilkington lined up as a narrow front three who swapped positions, but not as often and as effectively as they should have.
SCEB started well – their passing was slick and they didn’t look like a team that were playing together for the first time competitively. Right off the bat, their midfielder Matti Steinmann looked impressive with his range of passing and movement. Early on in the seventh minute, a quick interchange between Matti and Congolese international Jacques Maghoma saw Pilkington set up near the six yard box, but the Norwich City winger took an extra touch to gain more control on the ball and the chance was gone by then.
East Bengal mainly attacked from the right as ATKMB continued their style of absorbing pressure and giving possession to teams if they want it. They never really pressed high up the pitch and let EB have the ball for the duration of the game (SCEB: 69% Possession). The excellent Surchandra Singh was a constant threat from the right and the midfielder Loken was also a bright and sprightly presence in attack.
However, Balwant Singh’s movement off the ball was unremarkable and he rarely offered an outlet even when his team were in possession.
ATKMB were relatively quiet in the first half with most of the attack stemming from the right wing back Prabir Das. With the converted left wing-back Michael Soosairaj likely out for a month at least, new signing Subhasish Bose offered little in attack from the left. But they did have the best chance of the first half with a throw-in finding Javi Hernandez in the box – the shot on target was well pushed away by EB custodian Debjit Majumder. The teams went into the half-time break 0-0.
EXPECTED GOALS GRAPH
Early on in the second half, ATKMB opened the scoring. A simple pass from Javi Hernandez found Roy Krishna just outside the box. The Fijian took a hopeful shot almost towards the centre of the goal mouth and Debjit’s shape shifting positioning allowed the Mariners to take the lead.
ATKMB did a better job of containing Matti in the second half with Pronay Halder coming in for Jayesh Rane – and having got the all-important goal laid in wait. EB tried to change things with Rafique coming on for Balwant Singh and Pilkington moving up front. The former Norwich City lifted spirits of the East Bengal camp briefly, but they let in a second goal in the 85th to close the door on any revival.
The second goal for ATK Mohun Bagan came after a long ball in the opposition half had Manvir Singh chasing it on the right flank. East Bengal defender Narayan Das who was alongside him just had to guide him towards the corner, but instead, he made a wide lunge at the former FC Goa forward missing him completely. Manvir Singh carried the ball into the box and finished in the far top corner. The second goal pretty much capped up the derby honours in favour of ATK Mohun Bagan.
For East Bengal, there are a lot of positives to take from this game, but the glaringly obvious problem here is the lack of a goal-scoring striker. The Head Coach Robbie Fowler highlighted the deficit up top in the post-match conference and they are likely to sign Wigan Athletic forward Joe Garner come January.
As far as ATK Mohun Bagan are concerned, it’s business as usual. With two wins in two and no goals conceded, they are right where they belong – at home at the top of the table.