EAST BENGAL AND ARYAN SPORTS CLUB share the same ground at the Maidan. They practice at alternate times, use the same club premises. This has been the case for some decades now (earlier East Bengal and Mohun Bagan shared the a ground. It did not work for obvious reasons).
All this time East Bengal have been one of the biggest clubs in Indian football, while Aryan's glory days have been left way back in colonial times. Established in 1884, the club last won a major trophy (IFA Shield) more than 30 years ago in 1983, that too jointly with East Bengal (last outright win came in 1940).
For all these years, Aryan Sports Club, a team with few supporters and modest monetary resources who occasionally dabbled in the I-League 2nd Division, have lived in East Bengal's shadow. So when these two clubs who share the ground have a go at each other on the same ground, it's always a special occasion. And more often than not it turns out to be a highly competitive game, and has been the coming-out match for a number of players who went on to play for some of the big names in Indian football. For context: last 6 times these two sides met, each won 3 matches apiece. And on this particular ground, East Bengal had not managed to beat Aryan for the past 15 years.
During pre-season, East Bengal and Aryan played a practice match at Kalyani, which East Bengal won 1-0 via a late goal. But that match was not taken to be much of a prediction for this game; and it wasn't. When in front of a nearly full gallery on a Tuesday afternoon the two groundmates had a go at each other in the Calcutta Football League today, the competition turned into a full-blown, passionate and often physical battle over territory. The game ended in a goalless draw, but the 100+ total minutes of footballing action that went down had enough to be memorable, especially for the Aryan footballers.
That Aryan were coming in with an intent was made clear early on as defender Arnab Mondal had to clear two Aryan attacks within the first five minutes. Then when East Bengal right winger Do Dong-hyun ventured close to the Aryan box, he was taken out by a perfectly timed tackle. This followed a pass-around between Stanley, Qazeem and Sumon which saw them take the ball deep into East Bengal territory, only to have it go in vain as Stanley shot the ball wide.
Quite soon, Aryan keeper Priyant Singh, a former East Bengal man, was called into action as Do Dong-hyun sent one to Mehtab Hossain who shot straight at the 23 year old keeper. On the front end, Stanley and Kazeem continued to combine well. Stanley got another chance to convert a few minutes later but missed.
Some twenty minutes into the first half the physicality of the game emerged to the fore. Laltu Hembrom and Mehtab Hossain leaped for an aerial ball and fell to the ground, writhing in pain. Bleeding badly from his head, Mehtab was taken out for treatment. But he came back, all bandage-laden, a few minutes later and played his heart out through the remainder of the game. A minute after the aerial clash, East Bengal captain Robert was brought down by Stanley, and the latter was shown the yellow.
A little later Du Dong-hyun sent a brilliant cross from the right into the Aryan box, and Harmanjot Khabra, Man of the Match in the previous game, failed to send it home. Aryan put together a good onslaught a few minutes later, with Kazeem feeding Stanley who was inside the East Bengal box. He took the shot, but keeper Luis Barreto pulled off a great save, tipping it away for a corner. East Bengal had the answer ready: Tulunga sent it ahead for Bikash Jairu who sent a lethal shot towards the Aryan post, but it was Priyant's turn to brilliantly prevent the ball from going in. As the teams broke for half-time, it was clear that the match was on a very even scale. East Bengal had enjoyed significantly more possession and made more shots at the goal, but Aryan had more shots on target: 3 to East Bengal's 1.
East Bengal made two changes on the front within the first 15 minutes of the second half. They sent in Cavin Lobo in lue of Bikash Jairu, and Ranti Martins came on for Jiten Murmu. The I-League top scorer was not fully fit and it showed, but he immediately had an impact as the Red and Golds' target man.
Within minutes Deepak had sent a diagonal ball to Martins up front that would have been extremely dangerous had Priyant not come out to intercept it. Some time later, as East Bengal became increasingly aggressive in their search for a goal, Du Dong-hyun sent a cross in but Ranti could not reach it. By now 80 minutes were up and the game had become a full-on physical battle of grit, with fouls and tackles flying in from everywhere. And it was around then that an Aryan defender's outstretched hand brushed the ball, inside the penalty box. East Bengal were awarded a spot, and as Ranti Martins stepped up to take it, East Bengal seemed all set to win another match by a late goal.
But the sand filling on the penalty spot, put there to fill up the water that had collected there during the rains, reduced the speed of the ball by a fraction. With impeccable timing, Priyant Kumar Singh dived to his left, and gripped the ball. The ex East Bengal man had single handedly stopped his former team from getting away with another 3 points. When at long last the final whistle sounded, the Aryan players and coach hugged Priyant, the clear choice for the Man of the Match award.
The draw had allowed Aryan to move to the second spot on the table with 5 points from 3 games, and East Bengal were denied the chance to go to the top, being left with 4 points from 2 matches. This draw also had a significant impact on the CFL title race: the draw between Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting had given East Bengal the chance to take a significant head start, but the advantage may go away if the other two win their next matches which take place over the next two days. But as of now, the CFL title race is wide open, and going by the indications, it may continue to be the case till the very last week of the tournament.