The Mariners moved up to second spot in Gtoup E…

Mohun Bagan kept up their scintillating form and came from behind to defeat Abahani Limited Dhaka today in the Group E match of the AFC Cup at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium earlier today as they won 3-1 thanks to goals from Jeje Lalpekhlua, Balwant Singh and Sony Norde.

The Mariners made five changes going into the game as the visible man missing was their hitman Daryl Duffy who was replaced with prolific Indian striker Balwant Singh. Jeje Lalpekhlua also returned to the starting XI. Abahani Limited also made some changes to their system, opting to play with a 4-1-4-1 formation instead of playing five at the back which lost them the game to Maziya S&C in the earlier round.

Abahani shared much of the early possession as they got six corners in the first eleven minutes but failed to capitalize from any of the opportunities. The Mariners also received a promising opportunity through a counter attack from a corner, as Balwant Singh’s shot from 22 yards went sailing over the crossbar.

But The Sky Blue Brigades were the side who kept mounting on the pressure and got their reward in the 21st minute, when a superb run and cross from winger Ziban created an easy goal for the unmarked Welshman Jonathan Brown who scored his club’s first goal in the competition with a cool finish to give the visitors the lead.

Bagan looked to be rattled after going behind as they upped the ante and had a glorious opportunity to level it up in the 27th minute as Balwant failed to pounce on an inviting rebound when Abahani goalkeeper Sahidul Alam fumbled Sony Norde’s powerful attempt and the missed opportunity left Sanjoy Sen infuriated.

Match Highlights : Mohun Bagan 3-1  Abahani Limited Dhaka

The Mariners seemed extremely uninterested to do anything in the first 30 minutes, but got in their groove late into the half and found their resolve into the dying minutes of the first half when they split open the shaky defense of Abahani as Sony Norde laid out a ball to Lalpekhlua who scored with a strong left-footed shot in added time to make it 1-1.

Mohun Bagan began the second half just as they ended the first as they pressured the Abahani defense and went into the lead in the 48th minute when Katsumi Yusa’s trickery and clever movement helped him launch an inviting ball for Balwant, who made up for his past mistakes and blasted a shot over the reach of Sahidul to make it 2-1.

The Sky Blue Brigade tried to get back into the game but failed to convert their half chances as The Mariners pressed for the third goal with some sizzling moves but were denied by the heroics of Sahidul.

Bagan replaced Bikramjit Singh with Prabir Das after the hour mark and the “Indian Messi” almost made an instant impact when his promising shot just hit the side-netting. Katsumi continued his impressive trickery and almost laid out the perfect ball to Lalpekhlua who failed to control it properly.

The Mariners’ defense was all over the place and they were lucky to have not conceded more, as the safe hands of Debjit Majumder and Abahani’s inability to score kept the lead intact for them.

They almost put the game to bed in the 77th minute, when Katsumi broke away with the ball and delivered it much like the way he did for the second goal, but the poor shot selection from Balwant helped Sahidul parry it away and Sony Norde’s shot minutes later was also saved by the Abahani goalkeeper.

But the Mariners kept on pushing on for the third goal and got it in the dying stages of the match when Sony Norde displayed his magic and fooled the Abahani defenders to score with a cool finish and seal the deal for Mohun Bagan.

Bagan rode on the brilliance of their attackers to get their first points on the board and climbed up to 2nd place in Group E with three points behind fellow Indian club Bengaluru FC.

Report by Khel Now’s Kolkata Correspondent Uttiyo Sarkar.