Mohun Bagan started afresh with new coach Sankar Lal Chakraborty at the helm with a 2-0 victory at home over title-holders Aizawl FC at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday.
Masih Saighani was guilty of gifting an own goal to the Green and Maroons in the 54th minute while Aser Pierrick Dipanda Dicka finished the game in the 75th minute to help his side rise to the fourth spot in the 2017/18 Hero I-League standings.
Sankar Lal Chakraborty, elevated to the head coach’s position at Mohun Bagan for the first time made six alterations from the last game. Cameron Watson made his debut for the Mariners as he led a new-look midfield as Arijit Bagui returned from injury and skipper Kinshuk Debnath was recalled.
The title-holders playing their sixth match of the season had four changes of their own. David Lalrinmuana was dropped from the matchday squad and Alfred Jaryan was rightly replaced with the armband on. William Lalnufela led the line as Syhlo ‘Mama’ Malsawmtluanga made his first start in the 2017/18 Hero I-League.
Dipendu Dowary, one of the recalled members under Chakraborty missed the target in the eighth minute when Bagui’s cross was dummied off by Aser Dipanda inside the box.
Kareem Omolaja sent in a chill into the Mohun Bagan defence’s spine when his long ranger hit the woodwork in the thirteenth minute with Shilton Paul having no chance to stop that ambitious shot.
While Mohun Bagan were wasteful as they failed to convert innumerable chances set up by Arijit Bagui. Dipanda squandered a golden chance to break the deadlock in the 22nd minute as Avilash Paul had come off his box to clear a ball and he played it off from Nikhil Kadam but missed the target in front of an open net.
Kadam himself missed three attempts on goal as he was entrusted with the set-piece duties. His left-footed efforts did create some kind of opening but the solid defensive pairing of Omolaja and Saghani held on.
Malsawmtluanga pulled off a blinding goalline clearance as Raynier’s corner-kick was headed in by Eze Kingsley. Both teams headed into the break goalless.
The Reds had the first chance post the lemon break. Leonce Dodoz’s cross into the box had too much meat for William Lalnufela as he was failed by a horrible first-touch to control the ball in front of Paul.
However, it was Masih Saighani’s moment of madness that handed Mohun Bagan the lead in the 54th minute. Ricky Lallawmawma’s cross intended for a striker was guided into his own net by the Afghan defender.
Ansumana Kromah then failed to head into the empty net, only hitting the crossbar from a clearance by Hmunmawia and Avilash off his line past the hour mark.
Aizawl sacrificed William Lalnufela for an extra winger in Rochharzela as Leonce Dodoz was sent upfront. Impact showed immediately as the winger ran forward but failed to go past the last man from a ball played in by Lalthathanga Khawlhring.
Substitute Sheikh Faiaz, brought in the first half for a misfiring Dowary had a few swipes at goal, with each of them going over the bar but with only fifteen minutes on the clock, Dipanda was successful to double the lead.
Masih Saighani’s long ball was intercepted by Eze Kingsley, in turn, laid down for Nikhil Kadam who showed an immense presence of mind to release the Cameroonian on the lob with Omolaja failing to track back. The former Lajong man rounded up the ‘keeper and calmly deposited the ball with his left foot – Mohun Bagan’s first goal in last five games from open play.
Kromah then had to be substituted off for a knock as the Green and Maroons held on to the scoreline. The Liberian is expected to return in their next home game which is on Wednesday against Minerva Punjab FC as they move to four points within league leaders Kingfisher East Bengal with 13 points as they stand fourth.
Aizawl FC remain in the sixth spot with ten points from six games and they now face Chennai City FC at home next weekend. (AIFF)