Margao: East Bengal’s Indian Super League (ISL) journey began on Friday with a 2-0 defeat to arch-rivals ATK Mohun Bagan. Roy Krishna’s long range strike in the first half put Mohun Bagan ahead while Manvir Singh scored late in the second to all but seal the win for the Mariners.
The first half proved to be a cagey contest with either side failing to break the deadlock. East Bengal dominated possession early on but barring one opportunity, they failed to threaten the Bagan backline. Habas’ side came close to grabbing the lead early on in the ninth minute when Prabir Das’s attempted cross from the right flank hit the roof of the crossbar before ricocheting off.
Jacques Maghouma also had a chance to put East Bengal ahead around the half-hour mark when Narayan Das whipped in a cross from the left. The Congolese leapt high but directed his header wide. Despite East Bengal taking the game to their opponents, it was the Mariners who came close to taking the lead in the 36th minute.
A throw-in found Javi Hernandez, who swivelled beautifully to create space for himself and shoot towards goal. East Bengal keeper Debjit Majumder reacted with a fine save. Moments later, there was an opportunity for East Bengal. Surchandra Singh found himself on the right flank and delivered an inch-perfect cross for Balwant Singh, who missed the target.
It didn’t take long for Bagan to open the scoring soon after the drinks break. East Bengal’s defense was in disarray and the Mariners punished them with Krishna finding the net once again. Bagan found space through the middle before Hernandez laid on a pass to Krishna outside the box. The Fijian took a touch before firing in a powerful shot that was enough to beat Majumder.
The Red and Gold pushed hard for an equaliser in the dying minutes with Anthony Pilkington coming close on two occasions. However, ATKMB put the game to bed with Manvir getting his name on the scoresheet with a fine goal. The striker received the ball on the right flank and made a solo run into the box. He cut inside before drilling his shot into the top left-hand corner.