Mohun Bagan holds East Bengal to 1-1 draw

Kolkata: A sloppy East Bengal failed to get past Mohun Bagan who bounced back in style with a brilliant Odafa Okolie strike to settle for a 1-1 draw in their return leg I-League fixture at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Saturday.

In a must win match to be in the title race, East Bengal went ahead in a dubious fashion when Robin Singh scored from an apparent off-side position in the 32nd minute but referee Santosh Kumar of Kerala awarded the goal to the red-and-gold camp.

Mohun Bagan bounced back in spectacular fashion right after the changeover with a powerful right footer by Nigerian stalwart Odafa Okolie.

Having restored parity, Mohun Bagan received two big jolts when their two foreigners Jose Barreto and Hudson Lima had to be substituted after sustaining injuries.

Lima`s injury after a collision with Orji Penn in the 80th minute in fact reduced Mohun Bagan to 10 men but East Bengal failed to take the advantage as their midfield and forward line-up lacked cohesion.

The draw in the season`s last derby meant Mohun Bagan, who had won 1-0 in the first leg and 2-0 in the local league, maintained their clean record.

In standings, East Bengal (35) remained on second position while one point behind Mohun Bagan occupied the third position.

Starting with a two-pronged attack in Togay Ozbey and Robin Singh, East Bengal had their share of chances in the first 45 minutes but the duo seemed lacking in coordination, failing to capitalise on their attack.

East Bengal had to do without Gurwinder Singh in the 16th minute when the defender got injured to be replaced by Raju Gaikwad.

In the 31st minute, East Bengal had a definite chance from a free kick but Ozbey could not find the target.

In the very next minute, the Australian forward had another brilliant chance but he did not pass the ball to Robin Singh as the goal eluded their camp.

But in the very next moment, they got ahead when Robin Singh scored from the left after receiving the possession from Harmanjot Khabra from a seemingly off-side trap but the referee found it on side.

After the changeover, Odafa found a rare opportunity from a long through as he brilliantly tackled Mehtab Hussain and Uga Okpara bebore slotting home with a powerful right footer that was beyond Gurwinder Singh`s reach.

Mohun Bagan stepped up the attack after the goal but their Brazilian stalwart Barreto who was substituted in the 56th minute pulled his hamstring to be ruled out in the 74th minute.

Minutes later, Lima after a tackle with Orji was forced to sit out as having exhausted all their substitutions, Mohun Bagan had to play with 10 players.

In fact, Mohun Bagan received their best chance in the 76th minute but an off colour Sunil Chhetri missed the sitter to settle for the draw.

There was more drama in store when East Bengal scored in the 77th minute through Ozbey but this time the referee disallowed the goal, adjudging it off-side even it seemed the Australian was on side.