Syed Rahim Nabi sparkled with a brace as East Bengal beat Mohun Bagan 3-0 and ended their 10-match winning steak, in the ONGC I-League at Yuba Bharati Krirangan, in Kolkata on Sunday night.
Man of the match Nabi, who scored both his goals in the first session, also had a hand in the third goal, setting up striker Sunil Chhetri to complete the tally early in the second half.
To make matter worse for Bagan, Baichung Bhutia will have to sit out of the next match. The India skipper was shown the yellow card for a second consecutive match.
After forcing a number of raids just after play began, Bagan faded out after conceding the first goal in the 22nd minute.
Bhutia and Brazilian Jose Ramirej Barreto, who had many chances to score, were thwarted by some fine goalkeeping by East Bengal keeper Abhra Mondal.
Frustrated, the Bagan players resorted to rough tackling, which resulted in getting them many yellow cards.
The Bagan defence, especially their back quartet, looked vulnerable and failed to mark the rival attackers. On the other hand, East Bengal, who beat Bagan after nine matches, were a cohesive unit as their backs -- Saumik, Suresh and Sur Kumar -- gave little space to the Baichung-Barreto duo upfront and did not allow Bagan medios Marcos and Ishfaq Ahmed to scheme many a move.
Upfront, also Rennedy Singh and Syed Nabi, aided by S Mehrajuddin and Mehtab Hossain, lorded over the midfield, while Yakubu moved through the rival defence with fine dribbling and fed the forwards with defence splitting passes.
Nabi was especially outstanding as he foxed the rival defenders. His sudden bursts fetched him both goals off Reneedy Singh from two set- piece moves.
Following the setback, Bagan slid to second place in the league table with 33 points from 16 matches, while Sporting Clube de Goa took the top spot. They have a lead of one point after playing an equal number of matches.