Forget taking off, Mohun Bagan had their wings clipped at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Wednesday. And making the most of their hosts’ generosity, HAL, a newly-promoted team from a company that knows a thing or two about flying, soared to the top of I-League IV after the second round.
After a pit stop in Bangalore "to get fresh clothes," coach R. Thyagaraj had said on Tuesday - HAL will play four more games on the road but such is the high of two wins, and possibly of sharing pole position with East Bengal, Salgaocar and Mumbai FC, that no one's complaining.
That seems the sole domain of Mohun Bagan fans for now. On a wet, grey afternoon the only thing that only thing that came in torrents were the abuses on players, the coach and officials after remains of a Mohun Bagan win lay cold and dead.
It didn't seem that way for most of the match. Mohun Bagan had more possession, forced more corner-kicks, had Ashim Biswas rule the right side of the midfield and created more chances. Stanly Rozario, the Mohun Bagan coach, though accepted that "silly goals" costing them games are beginning to be a matter of concern.
The first came in the 22nd minute when veteran goalie Sangram Mukherjee relayed his central defender Harpreet Singh's backpass to HAL's Vijesh Kumar. The wide right midfielder drove home at the near post after Mukherjee again looked to have reacted late. It was HAL's only attempt on goal in the first half.
Barreto restored parity snooping on a ball that strayed slightly from the legs of Liliyan Kennath and clinically placing a left-footer at the near post with the HAL central defender and right-back R Srikanth on his shoulder.
With Edeh Chidi nursing his hamstring in the media box up above, Barreto and Subair Muritala Ali paired in front but the Brazilian-African combine were unable to get the final pass right for all of the second half.
Barreto couldn't meet a crossfield pass from Snehasish Chakraborty - a rare contribution it was from the left-side medio - early and then marginally overcooked a ball down the middle for Ali. In the 58th minute, Ali's shot took a deflection off Adeola and forced yet another corner-kick. But like other restart moves, it went waste. Barreto managed to drive a grounder under goalie R. Pramod in the 73rd minute but it went across the mouth of goal and out after grazing the upright.
That the backline is a recipe for disaster showed up nine minutes from time when a mispass freed Xavier Vijay Kumar. His chip was superbly headed by Prakash and produced an equally superb save from Mukherjee. Only for J Murali to stab home the winner. Both Prakash and Murali went about their business unchallenged.