Do Dong-Hyun came off the bench to score a penalty in the first half, and then scored another from a superb individual effort to help East Bengal to a 2-1 win over Mohun Bagan at Siliguri. East Bengal are now just two points behind Bagan with a game in hand with Bengaluru a close third.
East Bengal XI: Barreto(GK); Bheke, Arnab, Razaq, Robert(C); Pradhan, Lobo, Mehtab, Ruidas; Mendy, Ranti
Mohun Bagan XI: Debjit(GK); Kotal, Luciano, Kingshuk, Dhanachandra; Bhargav, Halder, Lenny, Katsumi(C); Jeje, Glen
Mohun Bagan made three changes to the team which lost to Aizawl FC in their last match. Pritam Kotal, Pronay Halder and Jeje Lalpekhlua replaced Prabir Das, Souvik Chakraborty and Subhash Singh. The big news before the game was that Sony Norde remained unavailable for selection for the Mariners.
East Bengal, on the other hand, opted to use Bernard Mendy as a striker alongside Ranti Martins in order to add more physicality in their attack.
Mohun Bagan started the match brightly, and Yusa Katsumi tested Luis Barreto with a free-kick in the seventh minute. Barreto had to dive fulllength to his right to keep the ball from hurtling into the top corner of the net.
East Bengal were struggling to control the midfield and conceded possessions at dangerous areas. With their defenders held a high-line at the back, Mohun Bagan were threatening to get behind the center backs as soon as they won back the ball. Cornell Glen nearly scored from a similar situation in the ninth minute, when Katsumi put him through on goal with a delightfully weighted chipped pass.
The Trinidadian beat the off-side trap, and curled a dangerous shot just wide of the far post after gliding past Bello Razaq inside the box.
The poor condition of the pitch was also making things difficult for the players to control the ball and pass it properly. The Kanchanjangha Stadium is also used for cricket matches, and the length of the grass is more suited for that, than football. In fact, there was a bare patch at the center circle which is used as the cricket pitch. As the match progressed, East Bengal slowly gained their footing. The midfield and the defence pressed the Mohun Bagan players, disrupting their gameplay.
In the 33rd minute, East Bengal replaced Abhinash Ruidas with Do Dong-Hyun – once again making a mockery of the U-22 rule implemented by the I-League this season – and the South Korean made an instant impact.
Five minutes later, Luciano Sabrosa tugged Ranti Martins' jersey and brought him down inside the box. The referee pointed to the spot amidst frantic protests from the Mohun Bagan players, who pointed out the fact that the ball hit Ranti Martins' hand before Sabrosa brought him down – although replays showed otherwise.
Dong-Hyun stepped up to take the resultant penalty shot and fired the ball into the ceiling of the goal, and the East Bengal supporters went into delirium.
Things went from bad to worse for Mohun Bagan when their assistant manager Sankarlal Chakraborty was sent off by the referee after his animated protest against the penalty. He joined Mohun Bagan manager Sanjoy Sen, who was serving his suspension, in the stands.
East Bengal held onto their 1-0 lead at the break, and they should have doubled it at the start of the second half. In the 60th minute, Cavin Lobo picked out Martins with a cross, and the Nigerian's glancing header was just about kept out by Debjit Majumder. The rebound fell kindly for Dong-Hyun at the far post, and with an open goal at his mercy, the forward somehow only managed to hit the side nettings.
At the other end, Dhana ran into the box down the left wing with the ball glued to his feet. East Bengal goalkeeper Luis Barreto came off his line and tackled the ball away from him. But a poor attempt at clearance meant the ball reached Glen inside the box, with the goalkeeper out of position. However, the striker's powerful effort was cleared off the line by Bello Razaq to protect his team's clean sheet.
As Mohun Bagan pushed forward for the equalizer, they left space at the back for the home team to exploit, and Do Dong-Hyun did that to his full advantage in the 75th minute. He went past Kingshuk with a deft touch inside the box, before placing the ball into the bottom corner of the net to make it 2-0.
It was a moment of redemption for the 22-year-old, who has faced a lot of criticism this season for his poor performances. He stepped up on the biggest stage of all and repeated his feat of scoring a brace against Mohun Bagan in the Calcutta Football League last year.
Yusa Katsumi pulled one back for Mohun Bagan in the 83rd minute, as he jumped above Pritam Kotal to head home a delightful cross from Rahul Bheke on the right wing. But it proved to be just a consolation in the end, as Jeje missed a glorious chance to equalize for his team in the final seconds of the game.
Sehnaj Singh brought down Jeje inside the box and the referee awarded a penalty to the league leaders. However, Jeje weak attempt was easily kept out by the goalkeeper and the match ended 2-1.
East Bengal climbed up to second spot in the table, which might be temporary depending on the result between Bengaluru FC and Mumbai FC later tonight, and have cut their point difference with the defending champions down to just two.
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