The hard-fought win takes the Mariners to the top of the table.
Mohun Bagan came from behind to defeat Rainbow AC 3-2 in a thrilling Calcutta Football League match at the Mohun Bagan Ground on Tuesday. After going behind in the first half, the Mariners were inspired following the introduction of Mehtab Hossain in the second half, with goals from Aser Dipanda Dicka, Abhishek Ambekar and Azharuddin Mallick being enough for them to oust the resurgent Rainbow.
This was a big test for the Mariners early in the season and after being held by Rainbow last season in the league, they needed to play with utmost concentration. The Mariners brought in Dicka for Henry Kisekka, while Gurjinder Kumar and Abhishek Ambedkar also made the starting lineup. Rainbow have a formidable team themselves, with Minerva Punjab defender Eric Dano leading their mean defense.
The Mariners started the game positively and Mallick caused all sorts of problems in the sixth minute, when his dangerous cross from the left was almost converted into an own-goal by Godwin Quashiga.
Bagan created another chance two minutes later, when a Shilton D’Silva free-kick almost crept into the net. The Mariners were finding it very difficult to get past the resilient Rainbow defense, but midfielder Pintu Mahato found some space outside the box and hit a curling attempt, which forced a superb save from DIbyendu Sarkar.
From the corresponding corner, Bagan created another chance when Kingsley Eze’s header was cleared off the line to frustrate the home fans even more. The hosts were creating the big chances through set-pieces and four minutes later, another Kingsley header wheizzed past the target.
Rainbow created their first opportunity just past the half hour mark, after their corner was cleared straight to Sourav Roy, whose ambitious shot went blazing over the goal. They received another golden chance with a free-kick, when Sujay Dutta was fouled just outside the box in the 39th minute.
Captain Abhijit Sarkar took full advantage to strike a peach of a shot which curled into the net to give the New Barrackpur side a shocking lead before half-time. The Mariners looked stunned by that, but a Kingsley long-ranger in the 45th minute would be their only chance after falling behind in a dismal first half.
They started the second half brightly and Mallick got another opportunistic shot on goal in the 48th minute, which was collected well by Sarkar. The introduction of the returning Hossain resulted in instant impact, when his beautiful free-kick just a minute later, allowed Dicka to score his first goal of the season with an emphatic header and bring things level. Bagan asserted complete control thereafter and absolutely pinned back Rainbow with their energetic movement through the wings.
The hosts’ persistence paid off in the 67th minute when some terrific movement from Ambekar was found well by Pintu Mahata, who enabled the left-back to hit a shot which was deflected into goal by Godwin Quashiga, to help the Mariners get into the lead. Bagan might’ve gotten lucky with that abrupt goal, but they definitely took it and gained more confidence. Ambekar looked in a good mood and in the 73rd minute, he went on a darting diagonal run, steering past many defenders, before hitting a shot which went out for a corner.
The Mariners put the game to bed with thae corresponding set-piece, with another terrific delivery from Hossain being flicked on by Kingsley for Mallick to steer it into goal to give Bagan a comfortable lead. Rainbow brought on veteran striker Penn Orji to help them get back into the contest and step up the pressure on the Mariners. T
heir attacking moves paid dividends in the 83rd minute when a cross found the header of Joel Sunday, which went blazing past the approaching Shilton Paul, who completely misjudged the ball to concede a poor goal which increased the tension for the hosts.
But, the Mariners just managed to hold onto their narrow lead to record a hard-fought win, which incidentally takes him to the top of the CFL league table. Bagan showed improvement from their last game, but will need to maintain consistency to retain the top spot at the end of the season.