Playing well within themselves and resting regulars, Mohun Bagan missed a penalty but comfortably entered the second round of the AFC Cup qualifiers with a 2-1 win against Colombo FC here on Tuesday. They had won 2-1 away as well on January 31.
Mohun Bagan will meet Club Valencia of Maldives for a berth in the main round. The first match is away on February 21 with Mohun Bagan hosting them a week later.
Sony Norde scored in the 28th minute and Darryl Duffy made it 2-0 in the 56th. Substitute Balwant Singh, who replaced Norde, has his poor penalty kick saved by Colombo FC goalie Mohamed Imran in the 76th minute after a handball from Afeel Mohamed.
Seka John Yapo scored the evening’s best goal, in the 88th minute, beating four players but it was too little too late for Colombo FC who fielded three foreigners who reached Kolkata on Tuesday morning because they got their visas late.
With an eye on Sunday’s I-League tie against East Bengal, Mohun Bagan rested goalie Debjit Majumder, midfielder Sehnaj Singh and right-back Pritam Kotal. Coach Sanjoy Sen replaced Norde in the 67th minute and took off Duffy three minutes later. Skipper Katsumi Yusa was substituted in the 83rd.
Playing his fourth match in all competitions this term, Norde scored in the 28th minute and he too seemed to have done it without breaking much sweat. Taking a pass from Darryl Duffy, all Norde needed was the moment’s hesitation from Colombo FC right-back Charitha Ratnatyake who was trying to close him down.
From nearly 22 yards, Norde fired low at the far post and since goalie Mohamed Imran too seemed to have reacted late, Mohun Bagan were ahead.
Even though Colombo FC were chasing the game, they defended deep in the first half leaving large swathes of the Rabindra Sarovar stadium pitch to Mohun Bagan. But it also meant Mohun Bagan needed to be patient. It paid when Duffy found Norde with a square pass that wrong-footed Colombo FC.
And just as so often happens, Mohun Bagan could have doubled the lead soon after. This time Duffy’s acrobatic side-volley, off a move started by Shouvik Ghosh on the left which had Yusa finding the Scottish striker, was blocked by Imran. Had Bikramjit Singh (Sr) not blasted out with an open goal after Duffy’s crossfield ball helped Mohun Bagan break, it would have been 2-0 a lot earlier.
It was that when a superb 35-yard diagonal pass from Yusa found Norde on the right. Cutting in, he found Duffy who now has scored in all four games Mohun Bagan have played at their new home ground this term.
Result: Mohun Bagan 2 (Norde 28th, Duffy 56th) bt Colombo FC 1 (Yapo, 88th)