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Debutants Pintu Mahato, Jhonny Acosta star in a 2-2 Kolkata derby draw


In a match World Cupper Jhonny Acosta became the first footballer since Noor Mohamed in 1963 to score a goal in his Indian football debut at the Kolkata derby, another debutant Pintu Mahato stole the show as East Bengal and Mohun Bagan settled for a 2-2 draw at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Sunday.

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The Costa Rican defender, who arrived just a week ago and was making his debut at the all-important Calcutta Football League encounter looked rusty, making several mispasses – that started with his first pass of the match to Kassim Aidara – but ensured East Bengal’s turnaround with a rather unfortunate goal at the brisk of half-time.

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It was not just him, but an exodus of experienced players that failed to live up to the hype of Asia’s biggest derby clash.

And so it was a 21-year-old Pintu Mahato, who first set the Kolkata derby ablaze. Mahato scored his maiden goal from an Arijit Bagui flick in the 19th minute. Constantly troubling Lalramchullova on the right flank, Bagui found acres of space to flick one into the box, which escaped both the East Bengal center-backs, before Mahato volleyed the ball past Rakshit Dagar.

He never looked short of confidence throughout the match and in the company of another 21-year-old Sourav Das, ensured Bagan’s midfield dominance in the opening half, a period the Green and Maroons should have scored four. Instead, they managed to score two – the second coming from Henry Kisekka in the 29th minute.

Bagui once again was at the center of things, when his cross for the second time in 10 minutes escaped the East Bengal center-back duo of Acosta and Mehtab Singh, before falling for Kisekka, who scored with a repeat volley to put Bagan 2-0 ahead.

But just as the match looked to be slipping one way, East Bengal found a lifeline courtesy their most high-profile player Acosta. Brandon Vanlalremdika’s cross was headed by Acosta straight into goalkeeper Shilton Paul’s path but the goalkeeper’s butter-fingers allowed the ball to slip, guiding it towards the goal after a clearance hit the central defender’s face.

It opened up the game again and East Bengal looked a different side in the second half. Once again it was from the set-piece that the Red and Golds bounced back. Lalrandika inswinger from a corner was straight at goal and although Paul saved it, Laladanmawia was at hand to shoot it at goal from six-yards out.

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