Mohun Bagan put up a spirited display to hold defending champions East Bengal to a goalless draw in the inaugural match of the ninth National Football League in Kolkata on Wednesday.
Wresting the initiative from their dreaded arch-rivals, Bagan played their hearts out to share honours at the Salt Lake stadium.
The green and maroon brigade, however, failed to cash in on their numerical advantage after East Bengal were reduced to ten men following the expulsion of medio Chandan Das, who picked up his second yellow after bringing down Bagan midfielder Noel Wilson in the 65th minute.
The match, after the league was inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh amidst much fanfare, began at a fast pace but was later reduced to a midfield affair as none gave any space to the other to create positive chances.
Consequently, as many as nine yellow cards were flashed by referee K Shankar during the course of the match, with Das picking up a red after the double booking.
East Bengal missed the easiest chance of the day. In the 78th minute, a Habibur Rahman throw from the right flank beat the Bagan defenders and fell in front of Syed Rahim Nabi, whose attempt from close inched out over the crossbar, much to the relief of rival custodian Prosanto Dora.
Nabi, who put up a decent performance otherwise, was adjudged man of the match by former Olympians P K Bannerjee and Sahu Mewalal.