Mohun Bagan, East Bengal share the loot in the first derby of the season

KOLKATA: For most of the game, especially in the first half, Mohun Bagan aimed and pulled the trigger, but ended up failing. East bengal However, they hesitated to be dominated by promising, but they stuck to their weapons with determination and ended up sharing the loot.

That, in a nutshell, is how the season's first derby unfolded as the high-voltage CFL Premier Division 'A' clash between defending champions Mohun Bagan and East bengal ended goalless at Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday.

Beyond the drama of buts and buts, it could have been a different story and gone anyway. The deadlock, in the end, could have balanced things for both teams, since they are still a work in progress in the new season.

Mohun Bagan coach Kibu Vicuna lamented missing out on the opportunity to "kill" the opponents while his East bengal counterpart Alejandro Menendez made it clear that he was happy with the result. Alejandro may have heaved a sigh of relief as, for a change, it was his defence which bailed the team out.

The East bengal coach took everyone by surprise when he started with Marcos Jimenez and Ronaldo Oliviera instead of Jaime Santos and Bidyasagar Singh - the team's most prolific strikers so far, with 12 goals between them. He did introduce the duo with 20 minutes to go, but it was too short a time for them to change the script.

Perhaps Alejandro wanted to use Marcos' height to win aerial balls at the time of the transition from the attack to the defense, but the movement could have been counterproductive since Mohun Bagan prevailed in the game with a more defined game plan from the beginning . With the boy and teenager at Bagan Sk Sahil Academy showing spirit in the midfield, Surabuddin Mallick scorching the flank with rhythm and Joseba Beitia bringing talent with a skillful footwork, Kibu's side proved to be the most adventurous, ambitious and solved too.

East bengal were dealt the first warning when Fran Gonzalez saw his header off a Beitia free-kick miss the target by a whisker in the 16th minute. Mohun Bagan continued to keep the red-and-gold rearline under pressure and ended the first half with the best opportunity of going ahead. Suhair VP, following a faulty clearance from East bengal defender Mehtab Singh, found himself in a one-on-one situation with goalkeeper Lalthuammawia Ralte . With no one around to challenge him, Suhair shot the goalkeeper directly.

If Bagan suffered from poor finishing, East bengal survived on the back of some exceptional defending led by Marti Crespi. The Spaniard - who spent a season at Racing Santander under Menendez - led by example, denying Beitia any space in and around the box and inspiring full-backs Kamalpreet Singh and Abhishek Ambekar to fight the odds with discipline and resilience.

East bengal looked a little more composed and ambitious after the break and Ronaldo drew a smart from Debjit Majumdar. On the other hand, Suhair was guilty of squandering another chance, sending Ashutosh Mehta's lay-off over the bar from the edge of the six-yard-box.

Beitia was named Man of the Party, but in a derby directed and orchestrated by two Spanish coaches, it could have been the story of an Indian who defined the game. Well, it wasn't like that.