MOHUN BAGAN HAVE QUALIFIED for the semi-finals of the Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup beating Chittagong Abahani Limited by a solitary goal at M. A. Aziz Stadium in Chittagong.
Playing in front of a sold out crowd - which the commentators noted was the biggest since East Bengal played Chittagong Abahani in the same stadium back in 2015 - the Mariners needed a win to qualify for the semis; while the Blue Pirates had already made it there.
The first half saw both clubs engage in some mutual sparring, proceeding with caution in their attacks. Mohun Bagan, having the onus to win, were the primary aggressors but they had a hard time navigating the set defence of Abahani.
The home team's attacks were primarily dependent on looking for striker Rokovic Luka with long balls or through balls, and the MB defenders remained on constant vigil to guard him. In the midfield, Bagan fared better, but in the final third it was once again a case of mis-timed and miscued finishing.
Although Mohun Bagan's pressure yielded a few corners, the Abahani defence never really looked in danger. Their best chance in the first half came Abahani keeper Mazharul, who put in a great shift otherwise, got caught off position and Petar made a goal-line clearance to save the moment in what was easily the single greatest defensive effort of the tournament so far.
The first half was goalless and in the second half Bagan's heightened urgency showed in the way they immediately began a flurry of attacks. A number of corners saw Abahani defence getting living dangerously, until at the hour mark Suhair Vadakkepeedika finally got through with a brilliant shot and found the net, giving Bagan a 0-1 lead.
The Mariners didn't really have much time to celebrate their hard earned goal because Abahani pushed back with renewed vigour to get even. Bolstered by the introduction of Chinedumatthew and Bangladesh national team captain Jamal Bhuiyan, Abahani displayed a more attacking posture than they had before. Back to back corners and deep throw ins tested the Bagan defence.
Suhair got a chance to double the lead when he sent a piledriver from a distance that left the defence stunned but Mazharul deflected it with a leaping outstretched hand. Just after the 80 minute mark, Luka almost got past the MB defenders and forced Debjit Majumder to come out running; but the final shot was deflected for a corner by a sliding Lalramchullova.
Mohun Bagan survived the attack, and played out the rest of the game carefully to ensure victory.
You can watch the entire match right here, courtesy the tournament's official Facebook page.
With this win, the Mariners ended their group stage on 6 points; same as Abahani and Young Elephants FC from Laos. But due to superior head-to-head goal difference, Chittagong Abahani topped the group and Mohun Bagan finished second, both going into the semi-finals.
Now the Mariners will face whoever comes out on top of the Group A. Their opponents will be decided tomorrow when Bangladeshi champions Basundhara Kings face Malaysian Super League club Terengganu FC, and Indian champions Chennai City FC take on Durand Cup winners Gokulam Kerala FC; with everyone other than CCFC still having a shot at making it to the semis.