Kolkata Derby: Revisiting East Bengal's famous 'first meetings' with Mohun Bagan

Updated: Feb 14

Having won laurels galore and established themselves as one of the giants of Indian football over the past hundred years, SC East Bengal are now in the middle of their maiden Hero Indian Super League campaign – the country's current top-flight competition.


The Red-and-Golds' season started with the high-voltage Kolkata derby against ATK Mohun Bagan FC at the Tilak Maidan Stadium, Goa on 27 November 2020. Even though SCEB lost the contest 0-2, with Roy Krishna and Manvir Singh netting the goals for ATKMB, the match lived up to the expectations of a 'boro match' (colloquial term for 'big match'), as both sides created plenty of chances throughout.


A few days before the reverse fixture takes place at the Fatorda Stadium on 19 February, we look back at some of East Bengal’s memorable results in the first Kolkata derbies of various competitions.

1. The first officially recognised Kolkata derby Calcutta Football League, May 1925


Played in front of a packed house at the CFC ground (now Mohun Bagan ground), East Bengal won that game 1-0, courtesy Nepal Chakravarty’s winner in the second-half. Mohun Bagan, despite dominating possession, were reduced to ten men after Rabi Ganguly suffered an injury in the second-half. The match is fondly remembered for East Bengal custodian Purna Das’ stellar show as he thwarted a slew of Mohun Bagan attacks to hand the Red-and-Golds their maiden win in the Kolkata derby.

Match report of the first-ever official Kolkata derby between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, published in The Statesman on 28 May 1925

2. The first IFA Shield derby — 5 August 1944


Riding V. Rao’s goal, East Bengal defeated Mohun Bagan 1-0 in the semi-final of the IFA Shield that year – their maiden clash in this tournament.


3. Durand Cup, New Delhi — December 1957


This Durand Cup semi-final is remembered for two main reasons—first, it was the first derby to take place outside Kolkata, and second, it was played twice.


Those who witnessed the game(s) live say that there was not a single vacant seat in the stands, despite the chilly conditions. A couple of days after the first meeting ended in a goalless draw, the Red-and-Golds won the replay 3-2, with goals from Balaram, Moosa and Balasubramaniam.


In a thrilling end-to-end show, East Bengal opened the scoring through Tulsidas Balaram, but Mohun Bagan not only earned the equaliser through Chuni Goswami, but soon went ahead and held on to the lead till seven minutes from the final whistle.


In the closing moments of the game, East Bengal made a brilliant turnaround by slotting in two goals in the last seven minutes, with the winner almost coinciding with the final hooter.


The match is also significant because it was the first derby where the two rival stars, Balaram and Chuni Goswami, scored for their respective sides.


4. The first Rovers Cup derby — 27 November 1960


The first Kolkata derby in the Rovers Cup at the Cooperage Ground, Bombay (now Mumbai) saw the Red-and-Golds pip their rivals 2-1, thanks to goals from Arun Ghosh and Narayan.


After Amiya Banerjee handed Mohun Bagan a lead in the first half, Arun Ghosh converted a free-kick to earn the Red-and-Golds the equaliser.


In the 69th minute, Narayan netted the winner for East Bengal from a Balaram assist. The game generated huge excitement among the film fraternity of Bollywood with stalwarts like Hemanta Kumar, Biswajit, Manna Dey, Ashok Kumar, Sachin Dev Burman and Rahul Dev Burman in attendance.


5. When both teams shared the title — Federation Cup, Coimbatore; May 1978


The fixture was played over two consecutive days, on 12 May and 13 May, but ended goalless on both occasions. Hence, they were declared joint winners.

East Bengal and Mohun Bagan captains Surajit Sengupta and Prasun Banerjee share the 1978 Federation Cup

6. DCM Trophy, New Delhi — December 1992


The arch-rivals' only meeting in the DCM Trophy took place at the Ambedkar Stadium, New Delhi in December 1992. Goals from Kuljit Singh and Nigerian recruit Chibuzor powered East Bengal to a 2-1 victory in this group stage clash. Mohun Bagan's Nigerian striker Chima Okorie pulled one back for them. By that time both clubs had opened their doors for foreign strikers.


Written with inputs from Gautam Roy

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