How Kolkata derbies panned out in Hero ISL 2020-21
Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21 was a special season to all intents and purposes. Apart from being the first major sporting event to be held in India during the Covid-19 pandemic, the season also witnessed the famous Kolkata derby for the first time in league history after fierce rivals ATK Mohun Bagan and SC East Bengal were introduced in the competition. Popularly known as the ‘Boro match’, the Kolkata derby is the battle for supremacy for Bengalis around the world. It is also the oldest in Asia, with the FIFA recognising the rivalry between the two Kolkata-based clubs as iconic and on a par with the El Clasico (Barcelona and Real Madrid), the North West derby (Manchester United and Liverpool), the Old Firm derby (Rangers and Celtic) and the Superclasico (River Plate and Boca Juniors). Here we take a look at how these two matches transpired over the course of the season.
ATK Mohun Bagan draw first blood!
The two city rivals faced off for the first time in the Hero ISL on November 27, 2020. The Red and Gold Brigade were slightly under-prepared for the challenge, with only around two weeks of pre-season football under their belt and it also being their first-ever Hero ISL game. The Mariners, meanwhile, had played their first game on November 20 against Kerala Blasters FC in what was also the season opener.
Robbie Fowler’s men defended well for the first 45 minutes of the game but were unable to stop Roy Krishna from scoring the opener four minutes into the second half. From then on, ATK Mohun Bagan’s defence took charge and prevented their rivals from restoring parity. As the Mariners piled the pressure on their opponents, it was Manvir Singh who doubled their lead with a brilliant finish just five minutes from regulation time. It was also the 25-year-old forward’s first goal in ATK Mohun Bagan colours having moved from FC Goa ahead of the season.
ATK Mohun Bagan make it two out of two!
When the two rivals met in the reverse fixture on February 19, 2021, ATK Mohun Bagan were on a four-match unbeaten run. However, SC East Bengal were an improved side themselves. Although their position on the league table at that time did not reflect their progress in a big way, the Red and Gold Brigade’s January signings had undoubtedly lifted the morale of the team. They had lost just two games in their previous 12 matches.
Krishna, however, took just 15 minutes to give the Mariners the lead. Undeterred, SC East Bengal kept their cool and were rewarded with an equaliser from a Raju Gaikwad throw-in, which went into the net off Mariners defender Tiri’s head minutes before the halftime break.
The second period was no different as ATK Mohun Bagan dominated the proceedings from the get-go. Krishna assisted David Williams for the Mariners’ second goal as they got back in the ascendancy in the 72nd minute. Javier Hernandez’s strike then in the 89th minute sealed the double for Antonio Lopez Habas’ side. SC East Bengal played without Fowler who was serving a four-match suspension.
There was a big contrast in their positions in the standings at the end of the league stage. While ATK Mohun Bagan finished second on the points table – before reaching the final and losing to Mumbai City FC -- SC East Bengal were unable to move higher than ninth. But it is safe to say that whenever these two teams met, competitiveness reached another level and partisans as well as neutrals enjoyed the high-profile contests in no small measure.