Mohun Bagan come from behind to blow Abahani Dhaka away in AFC Cup

Mohun Bagan A.C. came from one goal down to defeat Bangladesh’s Abahani Dhaka 3-1 in the 2017 AFc Cup. After two group E games, Mohun Bagan have three points.

football Updated: Apr 04, 2017 23:41 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Mohun Bagan A.C.,Abahani Limited Dhaka,2017 AFC Cup
Mohun Bagan A.C.’s Sony Norde and Jeje Lalpekhlua celebrate after the former scored against Abahani Limited Dhaka during a 2017 AFC Cup match.(Samir Jana/HT PHOTO)

Mohun Bagan came back to beat Abahani Dhaka and notch up their first points of the 2017 AFC Cup. Goals from Jeje Lalpekhlua and Balwant Singh that came two minutes off each other on either side of half-time was buttressed by a solo effort from Sony Norde after Jonathan Brown had put the visitors ahead.

After two group E games, Mohun Bagan have three points, the same as Maziya of Maldives. Leaders Bengaluru FC have six after beating Maziya 1-0 away on Tuesday. Abahani have none from two games. One team will qualify from the group.

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Four players were rested from the team that knocked the ball around with confidence against Bengaluru FC on Saturday asking questions the I-League champions couldn’t answer. And from pretty, Mohun Bagan looked pedestrian. But they kept trying and in the first minute of first-half stoppage time, Balwant found Norde who set up Jeje to fire a left-foot volley and make it 1-1.

From close, Balwant then produced a 48th minute cannonball to a lay-up from Katsumi Yusa that gave goalie Sahidul Alam no chance. It was exactly the start Mohun Bagan needed to the second half and they held on despite a couple of close shaves.

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Norde’s flourish in the 87th minute, beating three players inside the penalty box to score, not only ensured Bengaluru FC feel the heat but also capped off a strong second half show that was proof more of Mohun Bagan’s desire to win than their strength in depth.

Mohun Bagan played Sarthak Dolui in place of India right-back Pritam Kotal. Like Kotal, left-back Subhasish Bose was rested as was striker Darryl Duffy, central defender Anas Edathodika and central midfielder Souvik Chakraborty. Mohun Bagan play eight matches in a little over three weeks hence rotating players is understandable, more so when there is an I-League match against East Bengal on Sunday, but it led to a serious dip in performancein the first half.

The visiting team forced six corner-kicks in the first 11 minutes --- Mohun Bagan got their first after the breather --- and scored in the 21st minute when an unmarked Brown, who has played youth football for Wales with Gareth Bale and Hal Robson Kanu, slotted home Mohammed Ziban’s cut-back.

With Abahani Dhaka playing a back five and Rayhan Hasan slotted in front of the central defensive trio, it was obvious what they wanted from this game. For most of the first half, it seemed Brown’s goal would be enough. But as their opponents tired, Jeje and Balwant’s goals typified Mohun Bagan players’ desire to stay relevant in Asia.

First Published: Apr 04, 2017 21:42 IST