At the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday, Nandhakumar Sekar’s magnificent goal helped Emami East Bengal snap a losing streak against Mohun Bagan Super Giant.
East Bengal defeated MBSG, the winner of the Indian Super League (ISL), by a solitary goal in the Durand Cup group-A encounter thanks to the participation of the Chennai-born winger, maintaining its prospects of advancing to the quarterfinals of the competition.
With two games remaining in the regular season, EBFC has four points and needs to defeat I-League 2022-23 champion Punjab FC in the last group match in order to pass current leader MBSG (six points from three games) and go to the quarterfinals.
In an effort to snap an eight-match losing trend against Mohun Bagan (dating back to January 2020), EBFC put up a strong display under the leadership of new Spanish coach Carles Cuadrat.
In contrast to MBSG, which seemed to be experimenting by starting Armando Sadiku in place of Dimitrios Petratos, its normal forward in the previous ISL season, it established the tone of the match with a better assault strategy.
Despite having a newly assembled lineup this season with 15 new additions, EBFC’s performance put the star-studded MBSG on a short leash. In the first half, EBFC had a few opportunities, and they did well to maintain their lead after the break.
The Red and Gold demonstrated astounding efficiency, while the Mariners fell far behind in making seamless changes. When it came to using the flanks to put the opposition’s defence under strain, Cuadrat appeared to have the ideal players in place.
In the 18th minute, Naorem Mahesh went up the flank to lay up a cross for Javier Siverio, giving EBFC their first opportunity. The Spanish attacker continued to aim for the objective, but Brendan Hamill blocked his shot just in time to stop him.
More incursions by East Bengal into the Bagan area led to the counterattack that resulted in the game-winning goal by Nandhakumar in the 60th minute.
After receiving a pass from Saul Crespo, he outmuscled his defender, Anirudh Thapa, and beat the opposing custodian, Vishal Kaith, with a left-footed shot that curled into the back of the net.
The 27-year-old winger, who joined East Bengal this season from Odisha FC, quickly won the hearts of the supporters as their team earned its first derby victory in four and a half years.