AFC Cup: Mohun Bagan lose 0-1 to Maziya, hopes of knockout berth fades
Mohun Bagan‘s chances of progressing to the knockout stages of the 2017 AFC Cup have taken a beating after losing 0-1 to Maldives’ Maziya at Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in Kolkata.football Updated: Apr 20, 2017 01:26 IST
At the altar of the 10th I-League, Mohun Bagan sacrificed their chances of progressing to the knockout stages of the 2017 AFC Cup. Well, almost.
Three games into the competition, Mohun Bagan lost 0-1 to Maziya Sports and Recreation of Maldives, who played with 10 men from the 86th minute after defender Milos Kovacevic was booked twice inside four minutes, at Rabindra Sarovar stadium here on Wednesday. This was Mohun Bagan first loss at home in all competitions this term.
Forwards Jeje Lalpekhlua, Balwant Singh and central midfielder Souvik Chakraborty were the only first team players Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen fielded at the start of this group E match, part of which was played under a sharp shower.
That line-up was not surprising because a potential I-League decider awaits Mohun Bagan at Aizawl on Saturday. Katsumi Yusa came on in the 73rd minute, 10 minutes after Raju Gaikwad who played right-back instead of his usual position on the left of the defence.
Mohun Bagan are now third in the four-team group with three points from as many games. Bengaluru FC stay on top of the group with nine points from three games. Maziya are second with six. Crucially for Mohun Bagan, they have only one home remaining in the AFC Cup.
Maziya went ahead against the run of play in the 34th minute when Mohamed Umair moved away from Kinshuk Debnath and made the most of the space left by right-back Sarthak Golui retreating into the box to fire an angular grounder that gave goalie Shibin Raj no chance.
On either side of that effort, Mohun Bagan pressured the visiting team using the width of the field. Kean Lewis, back after nearly three months after an injury sustained away to Colombo FC in the AFC Cup qualifier, and Prabir Das sortied down the flanks all right but the deliveries didn’t find teammates.
Before that, in the 14th minute, Balwant Singh fired a left-footer which Maziya and Kyrgyz Republic goalie Pavel Matiash directed to the horizontal with his finger tips. The corner was wasted as was Balwant’s effort just before Mohun Bagan conceded a goal. The striker finished a strong run down the right by cutting in well but his left-footer hit a defender and went out.
But as the match progressed, errors crept into Mohun Bagan’s game and it was just as well that Yasfaad Habeeb’s header didn’t have enough power to beat Shibin Raj in Mohun Bagan’s goal. The goalie also denied Maziya skipper Abdulla Asadulla in a one-on-one situation.
Deep in second half stoppage time, Balwant failed to direct a header to a cross from Lalpekhlua and with it ended Mohun Bagan’s hopes in the continental competition for another year. Last year, they had exited in the pre-quarter final to Tampines Rovers despite having home advantage. This was days after winning the Federation Cup with a 5-0 drubbing of Aizawl FC, a result that guaranteed them a half-berth in the 2017 AFC Cup.