The Mariners finished runners-up after Aizawl picked up a point in the Northeast Derby…
Mohun Bagan finished their season on a high with a win over Chennai City FC in their last match of this I-League season. Goals from Katsumi Yusa and Darryl Duffy helped the Mariners come back from behind and finish runners-up. Luck did not favour the Mariners as Aizawl got a point off Shillong Lajong and completed their historic triumph, but Sanjoy Sen’s have nothing to be ashamed off as this impressive victory rounded off a very good season for the Kolkata club.
The Mariners had made some changes to their line-up, bringing Balwant Singh for Jeje Lalpekhlua and Raynier Fernandes for Azharuddin Mallick, while Chennai made five changes to their side after their thumping at the hands of Churchill Brothers last week. Bagan looked raring to go in their final home game, starting on the front foot and having much of the early possession in the match.
Match Highlights: Mohun Bagan 2-1 Chennai City FC
The first real chance came at the 17-minute mark when Sony Norde’s brilliant trickery and cross found Fernandes, whose header was saved by Karanjit Singh. Norde was at the root of Bagan’s attack a minute later, when his cross was headed just wide by Darryl Duffy. The Haitian continued to be a menace for Chennai a few minutes later when he controlled a brilliant pass from Katsumi Yusa perfectly and took a darting shot which flew over the bar.
Balwant Singh got a glorious opportunity to put the Mariners in front in the 29th minute when he received an amazing pass from Yusa, but shockingly couldn’t put the ball into an open net. Bagan paid for their missed opportunities in the 31st minute when Chennai’s speedy winger Nandhakumar was released by Edwin Sydney Vanspaul and he blasted the ball into the top corner to give the visitors the lead.
The Mariners were visibly shaken by this and put more fuel to their attacks. They created a lovely opportunity in the 40th-minute mark when Balwant and Norde linked up really well but the former’s shot went wide of the target. The Indian striker missed another opportunity two minutes later, as it looked like a frustrating evening for him and the team. But captain fantastic Yusa stepped up for the Mariners in stoppage time, when he took Balwant’s chested lay-off perfectly and scored with a deft finish to end the half 1-1.
Mohun Bagan started the second half on the front foot and Duffy almost broke through on goal but couldn’t control the ball. The Mariners got some corners afterwards, one of which in the 52nd minute was an inviting ball from Sony Norde which was parried away by Karanjit. Two minutes later Duffy again found himself with an opportunity, but his header went for a corner. Chennai tried to penetrate the Mariners defence but were unable to do anything, as Dhanapal Ganesh shot went over the bar in the 57th minute.
The game seemingly lost its pace after the 60th minute as Bagan kept on attacking but were unable to create proper goal-scoring chances. Chennai City went on a solid counter-attack in the 68th minute and also got an inviting free-kick but couldn’t do anything with it. The Mariners were rocked to discover that Aizawl hadequalisedd in their game against Shillong Lajong, but that didn’t deter them from going for the winner.
Balwant again found himself with some space but his thunderous shot was saved by the heroic Karanjit, as Jeje’s header off a cross afterward went over the bar. The Mariners were annoyed by these missed chances but didn’t give up hope as Pritam Kotal went on a surging run on the right side and laid off a beautiful ball for Duffy, whose expert finish put Bagan in the lead.
Just as Bagan breathed a sigh of relief, they were rocked when Debjit Majumder was sent off in the 80th minute for handling the ball just outside the penalty box, meaning the Mariners had to play the last ten minutes with 10 men. They sacrificed Balwant to bring on their reserve keeper Shibinraj Kunniyii. but Chennai couldn’t capitalize on it as their corresponding free-kick was blazed over the bar.
The Mariners held off the constant attacks from Chennai City really well in the last 15 minutes of the game, not allowing them to get a sniff at their goal. It might have been a case of so close yet so far for Bagan for the second season running, but they finished their I-League campaign with their heads held high and will look to come back stronger next year.