Former champions Mohun Bagan today crashed out of Federation Cup football tournament after they suffered a shock 1-3 defeat at the hands of Shillong Lajong FC in a group match in Pune.
Bagan had lost 1-2 to Royal Wahingdoh in their earlier Group A match on Saturday.
Lajong surged into the lead in the 45th minute through Lalhimthara only for Odafa Okolie to restore parity in the 58th minute.
Johnny Meyongar put Lajong 2-1 ahead in the 74th minute and then James Gbilee completed the rout in the 81st minute at the Balewadi Sports Complex.Lajong stay on 3 points from two matches while Bagan are yet to open their account.
Bagan, despite all the hype and glamour, never looked threatening. Odafa Okolie lacked the speed and thrust that has made him the highest paid footballer of the country. Sunil Chhetri was benched and Anwar Ali and Rakesh Masih, the two side-backs in the three-man defence couldn't fall back in time to cut off the scuttle of crosses from the flanks.
The pace of the Lajong players exposed the Bagan midfield. The team from Shillong used the flanks to great effect.
East Bengal too strong for Pune FC
Had he not marred it with a booking for simulation and missed a sitter, Alan Gow’s first start in an East Bengal shirt would have been as close to perfect as can be. The 28-year-old Scottish striker scored with a powerful left-footer, ending a move he started with a clever back heel. He also set up the matchwinner.
And though this may not be something that would make Gow look back in wonder at Monday’s group league clash, it was his collision with Subrata Pal that forced Pune FC into changing goalies after almost seven fruitless minutes to get the India star back on his feet.
Jeje Lalpekhlua lived to the billing of being the best Indian striker after Sunil Chhetri by heading in the equaliser but losing Pal and Keita Mandjou to first-half injuries was a double whammy Pune FC couldn’t cope with. Chika Wali too limped through the last 20 minutes virtually reducing Pune FC to 10 men after they finished their quota of three substitutions.
With another left-footer, this time a snap volley from Robin Singh, East Bengal translated a period of sustained dominance into the goal that made the difference. They now lead the group with four points.
Credit to referee Ratheesh Kumar of Kerala for not stopping play when Gow was upended in the centre of the park. It was from that move, switched from the right-inside channel to wide left and, after Robin Singh did well to shield the ball and find Saumik Dey, back to the right from where Naoba Singh pushed forward to Gow.
Making the most of Pune FC not closing him down, dropping back instead perhaps in anticipation of a cross, Gow drove hard, the angular effort going in after grazing substitute goalie Amrinder Singh’s hand. The shot encapsulated both Gow’s experience and 18-year-old Singh’s lack of it.
Till the goal, the talking points of the first half were Pal’s injury and East Bengal making six changes in the starting line-up from the team that started against Mohammedan Sporting, Tolgay Ozbey and Sanju Pradhan included.
Before Lalpekhlua struck, Gow wove past three players before diving to bolster a penalty claim and ending up being booked. He will now miss Wednesday’s match against Dempo. He waltzed in again in second-half stoppage time too but then too blasted over.
Easy win for Dempo
The spunk Mohammedan Sporting showed against East Bengal ended with the final whistle on Saturday. At least that’s how it seemed on Monday.
Ranty Martins set the tone for the game early with a snap drive from the right that was buried in the bottom corner. Helped by a deflection, Clifford Miranda got his name on the scoresheet and the tie was over when Koko Sakibu headed home.
Stanley Okoriowe scored after Suraj Mondal’s shot, off a cross by Korean medio Han Wook, was parried by Dempo keeper Subhasish Roychowdhury.