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I-League 2017-18: Minerva Punjab FC go top after crushing Mohun Bagan

Minerva Punjab FC regained the top spot in I-League 2017-18 after they rode Chencho Gyeltshen’s brace to beat Mohun Bagan on Wednesday.

football Updated: Jan 10, 2018 20:10 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
I-League 2017-18,Minerva Punjab FC,Mohun Bagan
Chencho Gyeltshen (L) scored twice as Minerva Punjab FC defeated Mohun Bagan in their I-League 2017-18 encounter.(AIFF)

If Mohun Bagan continue the recent tradition of buying I-League’s stars of the season gone by, the odds would be low on Chencho Gyeltshen being aggressively pursued for 2018-19. A close second would be Ghanaian William Asiedu who was with Middlesbrough last term.

The two combined to tear Mohun Bagan to shreds. It led to Gyeltshen, the Bhutanese whose profile has grown in eight rounds of the 2017-18 I-League with four goals, scoring in the 23rd and the 30th minutes; goals that helped Minerva Punjab FC regain the top spot in India’s apex competition on Wednesday. Kinglsey Eze’s long-ranger in the 93rd minute was too late for Mohun Bagan to avoid their second loss at home.

After eight games, the Chandigarh team has 19 points with six wins. East Bengal are second on 18 from nine. Mohun Bagan stay on 13 from nine after new coach Sankarlal Chakraborty’s first defeat, in his second match.

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Scan Mohun Bagan’s recruitments season on season and it is evident how they have planned their foreign buys. So while most I-League teams sought and got fresh imports, usually for a bargain, Mohun Bagan banked on last season’s highest scorer Dipanda Dicka, Aizawl FC central defender Kingsley Eze and Churchill Brothers’ Ansumana Kromah to deliver along with Sony Norde. Other teams may have got Gyeltshen, Asiedu, striker Jean Michael Joachim (Chennai City FC), defender Veniamin Shumeiko (Chennai City FC), midfielder Andrei Ionescu (Aizawl FC) but Mohun Bagan have stuck to the tried and tested.

Norde’s been injured for the last six games as has been promising Japanese medio Yuta Kinowaki but the rest have struggled to earn their keep. That Kromah was replaced by under-22 striker Naro Hari Shrestha tells its own story.

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Even Cameron Watson, who started well on Sunday, seemed to have been sucked into the vortex of underperformance. A booking for a cynical foul on Asiedu encapsulated the kind of evening Watson, who was with Bengaluru FC last season, had at Salt Lake stadium. Watson missed from close deep in second-half stoppage time after Eze had stunned with a 30-yard drive.

So, as Mohun Bagan mostly sprayed mispasses, were poor with set-pieces, fluffed a 33rdminute penalty when Kromah’s weak attempt was stopped by Raskshit Dagar, tried hopeful long-rangers and had a smart header by Shreshta in the 88thminute to show for barring the goal, Minerva Punjab FC took full points.

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Like Aizawl FC last term, the red shirts showed that with young ones --- they started with four under-22 players including Gyletshen and Asiedu ---- it is possible to make a pitch for the title.

Gyeltshen scored with a left-footer after dropping a shoulder to take out Eze when an Arijit Bagui’s mispass fell to him. Soon after, Bagui was dispossessed but this time goalie Shibinraj Kunniyil denied Gyeltshen. But when he sliced through the left side of Mohun Bagan’s defence between Eze and Ricky Lallawmawma, there was nothing Kunniyil could do about the clinical finish. Both the assists came from Asiedu.

First Published: Jan 10, 2018 20:09 IST