Eighteen days to go before the transfer window closes, Darryl Duffy did his cause no harm with a goal that made Mohun Bagan’s return to the Rabindra Sarovar stadium after 16 years quite memorable. It kept Mohun Bagan on course for a hat-trick of home wins in the 10th I-League. After beating Churchill Brothers in their first match and Shillong Lajong on Friday, they play debutants Minerva Punjab FC on Tuesday.
Duffy began his time in Kolkata with a hat-trick against Aryan FC on August 8, 2016 when the lights came on at Mohun Bagan ground after 27 years for a match involving the senior team. But after the big bang start, the Scottish striker had tapered off, belying coach Sanjoy Sen’s faith in him. There was talk of Mohun Bagan replacing the man who was the joint-top scorer of the 2013-14 I-League. That Duffy, 32, wasn’t deemed good enough by a franchise in the Indian Super League this term didn’t help his cause.
So, there was a lot riding on Duffy when he trapped a long ball from Kinshuk Debnath in the 21st minute. Everything about how Duffy controlled the 30-yard pass, turned Shillong Lajong central defender Dan Ignat the wrong way and calmly placed the shot at the far post came together so perfectly that it seemed he was waiting for the I-League to show his wares.
An opportunistic tap in after fellow striker Balwant Singh intelligently set up Duffy, off a delivery from the right by Pronay Halder, completed a good evening for him. At least for now, talk about seeking a replacement will be muted.
“I asked for him when I needed to have a replacement for Cornell Glen. And though a lot of people said a lot of things about Duffy after the Kolkata league, he knows the I-League is a different deal. He knows the expectations on him --- it’s not easy playing for Mohun Bagan --- and I hope the experience of the Kolkata league will help him,” said Sen after the match.
Playing with seven under-22 players, Shillong Lajong weren’t expected to provide much beyond some youthful exuberance on Friday night. Yet, the manner in which Brazilian attacker Fabio Pena managed free headers off set-pieces could worry coach Sanjoy Sen. With better direction, Pena and Cameroonian targetman Aser Dicka could have scored more than Duffy did. “We will have to work on that,” said Sen.
So, though Shillong Lajong have started the competition with back-to-back defeats, coach Thangboi Singto’s target of bettering their sixth-place finish may not be impossible.