Looking more surefooted than the hosts, Mumbai FC punctured Mohun Bagan?s well-drilled team game in a manner few at the Barasat Stadium expected on Saturday.
Sparks of brilliance from Man of the Match Abel Hammond and Kalia Kulothungan left the favourites crying in the rain and showed that sometimes reputation, history and pedigree are not worth the paper they are written on.
Like Friday, the first two goals happened early. Only this time, it wasn?t Mohun Bagan beginning the second I-League with aplomb. For all the effort Peter Odafe put in, he will have problems living down the pass intended for a teammate with Hammond dangerously close. The Ghanaian intercepted and sent a screamer that gave Shilton Paul no chance.
Cast-off from Kolkata reportedly for reasons other than football, Kalia Kulothungan then decided to show how he has changed.
Again it was Hammond from the right who sent the ball but the way this Mumbai FC central midfielder connected with a flying header would have made Bhaichung Bhutia proud.
Repeatedly attacking Mohun Bagan?s left side, Subhas Chakraborty too showed he is still worth a dekko in the city he left for a career in Mumbai. That and the combined power of Hammond and Felix Aboage had Mohun Bagan under early pressure.
Proof of that first came in the fourth minute when Shilton was saved by the upright after palming out an Aboage attempt.
Mumbai FC ended the first half with Aseem K also cutting in from the left but the midfielder delayed too long after which Abaoge shot out.
But for that and a spectacular header from Odafe to deny Mumbai FC another look on goal, the first half, like on Friday would have ended 3-0.
More used to playing on their manicured turf at home than on a mud park in relentless rain, Mohun Bagan?s young ones, so gung-ho in the local league, slipped big time. Rakesh Masih, unchallenged, made three mispasses in the first half. And the goals showed up chinks in the defence that stayed hidden on way to the Kolkata league crown.
Bhutia?s lack of match sharpness also meant that barring a fifth-minute prompt, he was kept in check by the central defensive pairing of Selwyn Fernandes and Ghanaian James Dissiramah. A free header which went out could have been the equaliser it wasn?t and later, Bhutia couldn?t direct another header goalwards. All this meant Jose Barreto simply had too much to do.
Bencherifa threw P.C. Lalwmpuiya on, played Bhutia centre-forward and got Barreto to drift left. Mohun Bagan also played more direct football after the breather. Mumbai FC had more bodies at the back but couldn?t prevent Lalwmpuiya from pulling one back. But a last-ditch attempt being cleared off the line after grazing the upright meant this would be their night. One without any birth pangs.
“Not the end of the world but it's been a harsh lesson learnt at the expense of three points," Bencherifa said. "We were not complacent but confident having won the Kolkata league. They got early goals but we too got chances before they scored but couldn't convert.”
Looking forward to Tuesday's match against East Bengal, Bencherifa's counterpart David Booth attributed their greater comfort on the slushy turf to "training in the rain for the past six months."
And team general manager Henry Menezes said: “This result was needed. After the way United SC and Vasco started, someone needed to show that teams qualifying from the second division can hold their own at this level.”
Mumbai FC 2 (Hammond, 9th, Kulothungan, 23rd), Bagan 1 (Lalwmpuiya, 77th)