Defending Hero Federation Cup Champions Mohun Bagan marched on to their second win of the ongoing 38th edition of the Hero Federation Cup in as many matches, after Sanjoy Sen’s men defeat Shillong Lajong 3-2 at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack, Odisha today.
Strikes by Darryl Duffy (5’), Sony Norde (27’) and Katsumi Yusa (43’) cancelled out Pritam Kotal’s 3rd-minute own goal and Yuta Kinowaki's 80th-minute goal to aid the Mariners’ quest in progressing to the semi-final round. Currently, Mohun Bagan sit on top of Group B with six points out of two matches.
The opening minutes of the match had it all. An own goal, a goal and a header which kissed the left pole, only to bounce back into play. It all started in the 3rd minute when Pritam Kotal scored in his own net in an attempt to clear a cross, to hand Lajong the lead, much to the Reds’ astonishment. In the 5th minute, the Mariners equalised proceedings.
Darryl Duffy rounded off Vishal Kaith after the Lajong custodian had come way out of his lines, giving ample of time to the Bagan forward. Duffy steered the ball past a hapless Kaith and passed it into the net to bring the team back on level pegging after a frantic opening five minutes.
There was still more action to come and Lajong rattled the post in the 7th minute after Samuel Shadap’s thumping header missed the target by a whisker. Six minutes later, Lajong’s defence line made a goal-line clearance after Darryl Duffy’s shot from a tight angle tested their waters.
The pairing of Duffy upfront with Balwant Singh proved to be a handful for Lajong defenders and Sony Norde’s ability to carry the ball from midfield added more to their woes. The Mariners strike force assisted on the wings by Katsumi Yusa played with intent and fluidity. Norde set up Duffy in the 19th minute, but the latter could only shoot it over the bar.
Sony Norde, in the 27th minute, handed Mohun Bagan the lead when he sweet-timed a freekick from 25 yards out and sent the ball curling into the back of the net. In the 39th minute, Darryl Duffy could have extended Bagan’s lead but Vishal Kaith made a quick reflex save to deny him from close range.
But four minutes later Katsumi Yusa had other plans as he bundled home a Sony Norde shot which was going wide of the goal on the far post to double Bagan’s lead. The half-time scoreline read 3-1 in Mohun Bagan’s favour.
Even in the second half Bagan did not take a breather and got into the thick of things. Substitute Prabir Das came close to scoring in the 54th minute after his shot was saved by Kaith.
A pale complexion of the first half, the Mariners played deep and soaked up the pressure piled by Thangboi Singto’s men. Issac came close to scoring in the 58th minute but Debjit proved a fraction quicker than him and collected the ball.
The defensive pairing of Anas and Eduardo did not allow the Lajong forwards time on the ball, while the Bagan midfield dropped back to beef numbers in defence and safeguard the lead. However, Yuta Kinowaki scored in the 80th minute to reduce Lajong's deficit after a lapse in defence let the Japanese unfurl a venomous shot.
The full-time scoreline read 3-2 in Mohun Bagan’s favour.