On a Rabindra Sarovar stadium pitch left greasy by intermittent showers, Mohun Bagan nearly slipped in the chase for a second I-League title before Balwant Singh leaped to fetch them a point in the 89th minute. It took them to 22 points from 11 games while Mumbai FC, who led for most of the match, moved to 10 points from 13 rounds.
Pritam Kotal stabbed home from a well-executed set-piece move that looked like it took hours of training ground practice to perfect. Sony Norde, easily the best player on view on Wednesday, took the corner-kick which was headed back by Katsumi Yusa before the right-back strode up to score. An early goal and Mohun Bagan looked to be in control against a team that had come into this game without a win in 10 previous rounds.
But then, two goals in two minutes that showed up all the cracks in Mohun Bagan’s central defence where Eduardo Ferreira and Anas Edathodika were putting in shifts they wouldn’t be proud of, turned the match on its head. The first came in the 20th minute from Thoi Singh who slid in and redirected Pratesh Shirodkar’s prod into the top corner at the far post giving Mohun Bagan goalie Debjit Majumder no chance.
Before Mohun Bagan could recover, Victorino Fernandes struck again. Regan Singh, the Mumbai FC right-back, beat Mohun Bagan left-back Subhasish Bose for speed and sent a delivery which Ferreira was slow to react to. That was all the time Fernandes needed to poke home.
Like Churchill Brothers did against East Bengal in Barasat on Tuesday, Mumbai FC coach Santosh Kashyap then got the team to sit back. He replaced under-22 player Clyde Fernandes with defender Chinta Chandrasekhar and moved the tall Afghan Djelaludin Sharityar from defence to the heart of the midfield. Mumbai FC could have sealed the deal in the 30th minute when Thoi and Regan combined to free Fernandes down the middle. Having sped past Ferreira and with only Majumder to beat, Fernandes ballooned over.
Mohun Bagan could have drawn level, maybe even won had Jeje Lalpekhlua, who seemed to be struggling in slushy underfoot conditions, been at his best. They also had an indirect free-kick in the 62nd minute inside the penalty area after Mehrajuddin Wadoo made a backpass under pressure but with 11 players on the goalline, Mohun Bagan failed to find a way in. To the relief of the sparse crowd, they did eventually with Balwant who rose and met Norde’s assist from the left.
Bagan goalie injured
Mohun Bagan’s No.1 goalie will miss the crucial I-League and AFC Cup games against Bengaluru FC with a knee injury. The club said Majumder will not travel for the I-League game on Saturday and the AFC Cup group league tie on March 14.
Majumder was hit on the knee during Mohun Bagan’s I-League home game against Mumbai FC on Wednesday. He was replaced by Shilton Paul in the 35th minute.
BRIEF SCORES: Mohun Bagan 2 (Kotal, 12; Balwant 89) Mumbai FC 2 (Thoi 20; Victorino 22)