With Mohun Bagan merging with ATK, the current Indian Super League champions and the uncertainty revolving around East Bengal’s sporting rights and their tussle with Quess, we look at how they fared against each other in their last ever meeting in the I-League.
In the most high profile fixture in Indian football in recent memory, Mohun Bagan hosted East Bengal at the iconic Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. A win for Mohun Bagan would take them six points clear on top, opening up a nine-point gap with East Bengal. In this match analysis, we see how Mohun Bagan earned a hard-fought win against their arch-rivals East Bengal.
Mohun Bagan started in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Local boy Sankar Roy started in goal with Morante and Cyrus at centre-back. Gonzalez is playing as a pivot in-possession, with Sahil and Beitia in a roaming playmakers role linking play to attackers. Former A-League striker Diawara started up-top with Naorem and Suhair in supporting roles.
East Bengal started in a 4-4-1-1 formation. Former Odisha FC player Crespi started at the back with Mehtab Singh. In centre midfield, captain Ralte started with Aidara and Jaime Santos in a more attacking role behind Jimenez.
Mohun Bagan’s build-up variations
Mohun Bagan would usually build-up from their back-line or through their deep-lying playmaker Gonazalez. Here, Cyrus moves forward with the ball in defensive half-space with Dhana pushing high and wide. This opens up space for centre-back to play his pass. Naorem moves inside in attacking half-space behind the midfield line where he can easily take on the defenders in space around him to dribble or play through to the overlapping full-back.
Even if Naorem is put under pressure after receiving the ball, Beitia and Sahil provide options to maintain possession of the ball or even shift play to the right-wing, with the full-back and wide player linking up with the striker.
In this second variation, Bagan would overload one side of the pitch, forcing the opponent to mark players on that side, to have equals numbers seeing the opponent’s man-marking and no clear cut opportunity to attack the wing without potentially losing possession. Bagan would shift play through its players in the central zone, to the other side.
Like in the picture, Ashutosh has space to run into with Suhair providing the option for the link-up and eventually a cross from the by-line. In situations like these, Beitia would prove to be a handful. He would roam around to maintain numerical superiority for the overload and distribute the ball to attacking players in the channels. And in cases for the switch, he could dribble through the congested area to shift play.
Mohun Bagan has overloaded the right side and has a man advantage with 7 v 6. This helps to maintain possession of the ball to shift the play to the other side with left full-back running into space as we saw in the second variation of their build-up.
In the previous two build-up variations, we saw how Bagan would attack the wings through creating overloads and linking up play on the external zones. In this variation, we see how using the previous two, Bagan would play a simple forward into spaces in the opponent’s midfield line. This pocket of space arises when the opponent’s midfield line shifts to the other side. This tactic catches the opponent off-guard and players in awkward body positions.
In the example above, Mohun Bagan creates an overload on the right side, then looks to shift play to the left-wing like in the second variation. But instead, Morante plays a simple pass into Sahil who gets in between the centre-midfielders with Naorem and Beitia behind the midfield line.
East Bengal’s defensive units
Out of possession in the defensive half, East Bengal defended in a narrow 4-4-1-1 formation in their own defensive half. Jaime Santos and Jimenez were instructed to protect the central zone by blocking passing lanes into zone 11 and show the ballplayers to the external zones.
Given the Mohun Bagan’s tendency to overload either side, East Bengal’s full-back and midfield players would shift to the sides to not get outnumbered. But, East Bengal did not appear a team who were well drilled for the game, as midfield players lacked discipline while shifting sides. They would press forward individually leaving pockets of space in between them. Thus, Bagan would easily play through East Bengal’s second line of defence by playing simple triangular passes.
East Bengal had a low ‘line of confrontation’ where Jaime Santos and Jimenez would only press the opponent’s ballplayers while in zone 10, 11, and 12. Bagan could easily bypass the two attacking players by creating a 3 v 2 with Gonzalez and the two centre-backs.
In the picture, we can see huge gaps between East Bengal’s defending units. Bagan’s two wide players, Naorem and Suhair would step inside and take positions behind the midfield line to receive passes from deep-lying playmakers. Aidara’s positioning pins both centre-backs, forcing the East Bengal’s full-backs to step-up. And press the two wide players, leaving gaps behind them for overlapping full-back to run into.
Bagan’s high press and EB’s limited build-up options
Mohun Bagan had a ‘high line of confrontation’ with attacking players giving little time on the ball for East Bengal to play their passes through them. We see this with Bagan having a low PPDA (Passes allowed before defensive action) of 6.1 in the first half compared to EB’s 11.5. Like in the picture, we see Bagan have matched East Bengal’s numbers so they don’t get out-numbered. East Bengal gets an easy route out of the press to attack their defensive line.
East Bengal’s ballplayers were reluctant to play through their full-back because they were wary of the threat of transition into their own defensive half. Mohun Bagan will be able to attack their defensive line in substantial numbers considering their attacking players press high. And as a result, they could outnumber East Bengal’s defenders.
Like before, Mohun Bagan pressing high up the pitch with midfielders man-marking the East Bengal’s midfield players to block passes into them. Seeing Mohun Bagan’s aggressive approach, East Bengal played with caution by playing directly to attacking players. EB played 59 long passes in the game with an accuracy of 41%.
East Bengal’s centre forward Jimenez and wide player, Mahata, would pin Bagan’s defensive line for Mera and Jaime Santos to receive the ball in space in front. But East Bengal could not take advantage of these situations with only 16 successful passes into the attacking third out of 44 attempted.
Following the way in which game played out, Mohun Bagan is the deserving winner. Even though East Bengal came back strongly in the second half. Mohun Bagan’s two-goal lead was vital in a game of two halves to earn the victory.
The analysis shows how Mohun Bagan’s dominant first-half display and tactical flexibility, won them the game. Mohun Bagan moved six points clear at the summit, opening up a nine-point gap with East Bengal.
In their last ever meeting in their ‘Old Avatar’ in the now ‘Second Division of Indian Football’ we saw two of Asia’s oldest clubs play with grit and passion and the will to win the derby was to been seen in no less measure than before.