Sony Norde couldn’t have asked for a better initiation as a young Minerva Punjab FC gave the Haiti international space and the wide player didn’t need a second invitation as Mohun Bagan AC easily defeated the debutants at the Rabindra Sarovar stadium in Kolkata on Tuesday.
He set Mohun Bagan on their way in this third-round match with a free-kick which an unmarked Darryl Duffy headed home.
That was the first time Minerva Punjab FC, with six under-22 players in the starting line-up, found to their chagrin what Norde can do even after only three training sessions. Two Minerva Punjab FC players felt the best option was to bring him down on the right edge of the 18-yard box.
Norde then worked a good combination with under-22 Mohun Bagan left-back Subhasish Bose who too made the most of space on the left and hooked back an offering for Jeje Lalpekhlua to get his first goal of the competition in his first start.
From 2-0 in the 28th minute, it became 3-0 four minutes later when Duffy showed these days he deals in braces. After a double against Shillong Lajong on Friday, Duffy lobbed Minerva Punjab FC goalie Kamaljit Singh; skipper Katsumi Yusa finding the Scottish striker with a long ball. Game over.
Norde then gave under-22 players Kamalpreet Singh and Anirudh Thapa an indication of what lies ahead as they grow as footballers. Latching on to a ball on the left, Norde sent Kamalpreet the wrong way and then did the same with Thapa before swivelling and speeding to the byline. He rocked the upright with a 28-yard effort in the 56th minute, repeatedly cut inside and lasted the full match.
“The first match is always difficult even though for Sony the team’s not new. He will get better but what pleases me most is that we are doing well as a team,” said Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen.
Lalpekhlua made it 4-0 and it completed Loveday Okechukwu’s nightmare when the Nigerian central defender overran his attempt to intercept Bikramjit Singh’s ball. The Duffy-Lalpekhlua combination could have made it 5-0 but this time Lalpekhlua ballooned over from close. Substitute Balwant Singh too could have scored but his second-half stoppage time effort lacked direction.
With three clean sheets, Mohun Bagan moved to nine points while the newbies stayed on one. What will worry the title contenders though is the turnout. In a stadium that holds around 12000, Mohun Bagan fans filled up approximately only a third. It made predictions of club officials that their legion of fans, especially in the light of Atletico de Kolkata’s emergence as a force in the city’s football scene, would fill the small lakeside stadium in a flash seemed like a lot of talk.