AFC Cup South Zone Playoff : Mohun Bagan Thrash Club Valencia 4-1
Mohun Bagan registered an emphatic 4-1 victory(aggregate 5-2) over Club Valencia of Maldives, riding on a Jeje Lalpekhlua brace, in the second leg of the AFC Cup South Zone playoff round at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium on Tuesday (28th February).
Jeje scored a brace (2', 82'), while Sony Norde scored a solitary goal in the 87th minute. Hussain Nihan of Club Valencia scored an own goal in the 45th minute before Godfrey West reduced the deficit in the 52nd minute.
With the help of this victory, Mohun Bagan qualified to the group stages of the AFC Cup, where they will face last year’s runners-up JSW Bengaluru FC of India, Maldivian champions Maziya Sports & Recreation and Abahani Limited Dhaka of Bangladesh, in Group-E.
Bagan started the match with their signature 4-4-2 formation. Haitian magician Sony Norde returned to the squad after nursing a recurring knee injury. Scottish striker Darryl Duffy and Pronay Halder were rested as Jeje and Balwant spearheaded the attack.
Bagan got off to the best possible start in the match as Club Valencia were guitly of conceding a penalty in the first minute itself. Jeje Lalpekhlua stepped up and converted from the spot, sending the Valencia keeper MD Faisal the wrong way.
Stunned by the early goal, Club Valencia looked to get a grip on proceedings but failed to cope up with Bagan's physicality.
Sony Norde weaved his magic on the left flank, proving to be a nightmare for his marker Nihan.
Meanwhile, Balwant Singh was having a poor outing as he missed some glaring opportunites to extend Bagan's lead.
Bagan eventually found their much anticipated second goal in the 45th minute when an outstretched Nihan accidentally placed a Balwant cross from the right into his own net.
At halftime, the scoreline read 2-0 in favour of the home side.
Bagan started the second half exactly where they left off in the first half. Sony skipped past Nihan and marched inside Valencia's penalty box but failed to place his shot into the bottom right corner.
Against the run of play, Club Valencia reduced the deficit in the 52nd minute when Godfrey West unleashed a lethal right footed shot from distance, beating Debjit all ends up, with the Bagan defenders being reduced to mere spectators.
The goal injected the much needed belief in the Valencia ranks as they threatened to restore parity.
They almost got their second goal in the 78th minute when West missed an open goal, failing to take advantage of a miscommunication between Anas and Debjit.
Minutes later Valencia's hopes of qualification was squashed by the Mizo Sniper, Jeje Lalpekhlua, who completed his hat-trick. Prabir Das's cross from the right found and unmarked Jeje, who calmly headed the ball in the back of the net to restore Bagan's two-goal cushion.
In the dying embers of the match, it was Bagan's Haitian talisman Sony Norde, who got his name on the scoresheet, eventually sealing the fate of the tie. Katsumi Yusa laid the ball for him in his path as Norde smashed the ball across the face of the goal to give Bagan their fourth goal of the night.
The match thus finished 4-1 in favour of Bagan, who will now face Bengaluru FC in the AFC Cup group E match on 14th March at the Sree Kanterava Stadium in Bengaluru.
Man of the Match : Jeje Lalpekhlua
FeverPitch's Man of the Match : Sony Norde