DEFENDING CHAMPIONS Mohun Bagan quelled a spirited challenge from top flight newcomers Aizawl Football Club to win the inaugural match of the new I-League season 3-1 at the Barasat Stadium here on Saturday.
Bagan's newest recruit Trinidadian striker Cornell Glen (sixth, 22nd minutes) scored a brace and striker Balwant Singh (29th) netted the other. Bagan defender Pritam Kotal scored an own-goal to get Aizawl FC on the score sheet.
The champions got off to an explosive start with Glen creating opportunities from the outset. He grabbed an early opener for his team by slotting the ball home after receiving it from the left flank.
The early jolt was a setback for the visitors and the game lost its tempo for a few minutes. But they soon regrouped and tried to get the equaliser.
Kotal helped them in the 17th minute as he only managed to find the back of his own net in an attempt to clear a shot from rival striker Alfred Jaryan.
But Aizawl's joy was short lived as the 'Mariners' caught them on the break and scored their second of the evening with Glen striking once again.
It was a classic counter-attack goal. Balwant darted forward with the ball from the left and found Glen with a precise pass. The burly striker twisted, turned and then hammered the ball past the Aizawl custodian.
At the 29th minute mark it was Balwant's turn to earn his reward. The striker once again used his blistering pace to run past the Aizawl defenders and then found the bottom corner of the net with a crisp right-footer.
To their credit, the visitors refused to be cowed down despite conceding three goals and put the Bagan defence under pressure on several occasions. Their best chance fell to their Japanese import Yuta Kinowaki, but Bagan goalkeeper Shilton Paul produced a good save by diving to his right and punching the ball out.
At half time Bagan led 3-1.
After the restart, Aizawl were the more attacking team as Bagan relied more on their defence and seemed reluctant to push forward. The defensive strategy nearly cost them in the 52nd minute as defender Kingshuk Debnath almost produced another own goal. His clearance just fizzed wide of his own citadel.
Three minutes later, three Bagan defenders were pressed into action for clearing a danger.
The visitors continued to attack and tried hard in the last few minutes with efforts grazing the post and a few free-kicks but the Bagan defence did not give way.