AFC Cup: Mohun Bagan Overwhelm Abahani Limited Dhaka 3-1
Mohun Bagan overwhelmed Abahani Limited Dhaka 3-1 to open their AFC Cup 2017 points tally at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium on Tuesday.
Former Wales U21 forward Jonathan Brown initiated the scoring for the away side in the 21st minute before Jeje(45+1'), Balwant(48'), Sony(87') piled on the misery for Abahani. Bagan showed real character to overturn the goal deficit and climb to the second spot in the Group standings.
Bagan gaffer Sanjoy Sen made as many as five changes to his squad that humbled Bengaluru FC in their last I-League fixture. Sarthak Golui, Kinshuk Debnath, Bikramjit Singh, Jeje and Balwant Singh returned to the starting lineup as Duffy, Kotal, Anas and Souvik Chakraborty were rested.
It was the away side who took control of proceedings in the early minutes as they tested the Bagan goalie Debjit Majumdar in the 6th minute when Emeka managed to head a Waly Faisal corner straight to the Bagan custodian.
Abahani Limited Dhaka managed to secure half a dozen corners within a span of 10 minutes but failed to capitalize as Bagan weathered the storm.
Abahani's constant pressure paid dividends in the 21st minute when Md Ziban made a darting run from the right before squaring the ball to an unmarked Jonathan Brown who calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net, drawing first-blood for the Bangladeshi outfit.
Stunned by the early goal Bagan searched for the elusive equaliser but a galore of miss passes made the job difficult for them.
Bagan, however, came close to restoring parity in the 27th minute when Balwant Singh unleashed a left-footed volley which narrowly missed the target.
The Green and Maroon brigade had to wait till the dying embers of the first half to find the much-awaited equaliser. A Balwant Singh cross from the right was cushioned by Sony on to the path of Jeje, whose left-footed grounded shot beat Abahani custodian Sahidul Alam all ends up before going into the bottom right corner.
At half-time the scoreline read 1-1.
Upon resumption, Bagan looked like a rejuvenated unit. Sanjoy Sen's half-time pep talk seemed to work wonders as Bagan took the lead within three minutes.
Skipper Katsumi Yusa made a brilliant turn to lose his marker before finding Balwant Singh in space, who ran in towards the box and showed great composure to shoot the ball over the Abahani keeper, much to the delight of the home fans.
Even though Bagan enjoyed the lead, it was the defence which lacked the stability. The shaky defence was accountable for a few nervy moments but Abahani lacked the killer instinct.
Bagan, however, kept the pressure on the Abahani defence, looking much more composed on the ball compared to the first half. It was Abahani's custodian Sahidul Alam who kept his side in the match after making some fine saves, denying Balwant and Katsumi.
Even Sahidul's heroics could not prevent the Bangladeshi outfit from conceding a third goal when Sony Norde decided to take matters into his own hand, dribbling past three Abahani defenders inside their box before slotting the ball home, making a mockery of their defence.
With the help of this win, Bagan hauled themselves back into contention for the elusive top spot in the group standings. Both Bagan and Maziya have three points in their locker, while Bengaluru are on top with 6 points from 2 games.
Just days before the crucial I-League derby encounter against cross-town rivals East Bengal, Bagan gaffer Sanjoy Sen will happy with the way his boys fought back to extract a positive result.
MOTM: Balwant Singh
Mohun Bagan: Debjit Majumder(GK); Sarthak Golui, Eduardo Ferreira(72' Bikramjit Jr), Kinshuk Debnath, Raju Gaikwad; Katsumi Yusa, Sehnaj Singh, Bikramjit Singh Sr(64' Prabir Das), Sony Norde; Jeje Lalpekhlua(90' Robinson), Balwant Singh.
Abahani Limited Dhaka: MD Sahidul Alam(GK); Rayhan Hasan, MD Nasiurddin Chowdhury, MD Mamun Miah(83' Rubel), MD Waly Faisal; MD Tutul Hosain Badsha; Sohel Rana(91' Imtiaz), Jonathan Brown, MD Ziban, MD Yeasin Khan; Emeka Onuoha Darlington.