AFTER FALTERING TWICE, Mohun Bagan finally got their first win of the Calcutta Football League after convincingly overcoming Southern Samity 5-2 at Barasat on Sunday. In a game of unusually high stakes, Mohun Bagan's new signing Macpherlin Dudu Omagbemi was put straight into the starting line-up within a day of arrival and signing. Both the first two games saw Mohun Bagan held to goalless draws as poor finishing and some poor refereeing denied their attack a chance to open their account. The introduction of Dudu, the veteran Nigerian striker who has previously played for other I-League clubs like Sporting Clube de Goa, Dempo, Salgaocar and East Bengal, transformed the way the Bagan forward line worked, and the floodgate of goals opened up.
Coach Sanjay Sen moved Kean Lewis to the bench in order to accomodate Dudu, and from the get go he proved effective, drawing defenders, away, proving to be a competent target man for Souvik, Ram Malik and Lalkamal etc. Mohun Bagan kept most of the ball from early on, with Katsumi proving more effective in a more free-flowing role, thanks to the presence of Dudu. But the Southern Samity forwards kept opening up surprise avenues of attacks too. If it wasn't for a goal-line save by Taurust it would have been Samity who drew the first blood.
But less than 20 minutes into the game it was the Japanese medio who got Mohun Bagan an early lead; heading home a cross from Lalkamal. Not to be outdone, Dudu got his first goal within two minutes, Souvik ran up with the ball and sent in a pass, upon which Dudu put his left-footed finishing touch. Then it took about 10 minutes before Katsumi made another strike; this time from a free kick, which took the slightest deflection from a defender's head and flew into the Southern Samity net, past a helpless keeper Arindam. And then it was Dudu's turn again, as Ram Malik sent one in from the right flank, and Dudu's header sent the ball exactly where it was supposed to go.
Then within minutes Southern Samity had put one back. Samity substitute Tarif was brought down in the Bagan box and Snehashish walked up to take the spot kick. Since Debjit Majumder had picked up an injury earlier, it was on debutant Vinay Singh to face the penalty. He did anticipate it right but the angle of Snehashish's shot was perfect, and out of Vinay's reach.
Dudu completed his hat-trick early in the second half, and once again it was through a header, off a center delivered by Ram Malik from the right flank. With that the Nigerian striker entered Mohun Bagan folklore, with one of the few players to score 3 goals on their debut for the club.
Southern Samity Taurust did manage to slot in one more goal, and rather brilliantly. As a high ball bounced past the Bagan defensive line into the penalty box Taurust approached it with a high leg, connecting with a precision that left a leaping Vinay Singh inches short of getting his hand on the ball. The lead remained with Mohun Bagan, 5-2.
The rest of the game was frought with back-and-forth attacks and some experimental formation changes. Sanjay Sen decided to take Dudu off and give a run out to defender Gustavo Silva. Ram Malik also was replaced by Kean Lewis, who came on for the last few minutes. Lewis was encouragingly mobile up the right flank while Gustavo's fitness still appears to need some work.
As the final whistle blew Mohun Bagan had finally managed to leave the pitch with all three points, and after more than 180 minutes' worth of floundering around the Mariners had fallen into rhythm. Although the defence still visibly lacked organization, Gustavo's eventual return to fitness might provide them with the perfect man to marshal the defence.
With 5 points from 3 matches, Mohun Bagan have conceded an early 2 point lead to arch-rivals East Bengal. But that can still be undone if they manage to win the Kolkata Derby on 6th September. But in order to put up a challenge the Green and Maroons still need to address a lot of flaws in their game, and today's game, their fans would hope, was the first step in that very direction.