New Delhi: The experience and class of Mohun Bagan won them their 30th Federation Cup Group D opener against a youthful Oil India, who gave a good account of themselves at the Barasat Stadium, Kolkata.
Second half substitutions and their brilliance in set pieces were the key factors for Mohun Bagan in their hard fought victory against the underdogs.
Mohun Bagan decided to field a strong star studded line-up with Bhaichung and Baretto upfront with the experience of Deepak Mandal and Sangram Mukherjee at the back. Oil India had just one foreign player in their line-up with Okwuelumezekiel partnering Durga to form the strike force as Stephen Mbanyam wasn’t fit.
The Kolkata side were in for a surprise when it was the team from Assam who had the first opportunity to strike. Some good play from the left saw Okwuelumezekiel’s skills inside the box leave Mohun Bagan defence in sixes and sevens in the third minute.
The next minute Durga couldn’t get a good shot on goal as Anandavasan did well to put the Oil India striker under pressure on the run.
Mohun Bagan got s surprise lead in the ninth minute from a set-piece. Marcos Pereira’s grounder from the center wasn’t well collected by goalkeeper Pradeep Dutta and spilled it for Bhaichung to find Lalkamal. The midfielder's floater was headed in by Jose Baretto.
Left winger Wari ran past a slow Anandavasan and his resultant cross was cleared by Deepak Mandal. Such was Oil India’s dominance that they had won five corners inside the first 20 minutes!
Malswamtulunga was guilty for Mohun Bagan for wasting a goalscoring opportunity after Rakesh Masih and Marcos Pereira did well to lay the ball for him just outside the box from a Habibur Rahman throw-in.
There was a moment of confusion in the Oil India backline when Habibur Rahman took a short free-kick to find Marcos, whose teasing ball almost produced an own goal around the half hour mark.
The equaliser came in the 36th minute as Zaidin Hmar’s searching ball was lobbed in by Durga with Mohun Bagan custodian Sangram Mukherjee off his line.
Karim Bencherifa was forced to opt for pacy players – Ishfaq Ahmed and Lalwampuia instead of Malswamtulunga and Lalkamal Bhowmick at the start of the second half. Mohun Bagan switched to a 4-3-3 formation for the usual 4-4-2.
The move instantly brought rewards as the Kolkata side looked much calmer than the first 45.Ishfaq Ahmed’s shot hit Bhaichung Bhutia and the ball fell to Marcos Pereira. The Brazilian’s power packed shot enforced a save from goalkeeper Pradeep Dutta.
The winner came in the 57th minute Jose Baretto added another to his name from a coolly converted penalty. A Marcos Pereira flag-kick was acrobatically hit by Bhaichung which was stopped off the goalline by Jyothish Basumatari, but with his hand.
The 67th minute saw Bhaichung finding Lalwampuia in space on the right whose cross was chested by Baretto for the Indian international. ‘The Sikkimese Sniper’s’ shot was blocked in time in what could have been the third goal of the evening for Mohun Bagan.
A brilliant run by Ishfaq ended with a ball to Bhaichung whose header was blocked by an onrushing Pradeep Dutta.
The match ended with the same scoreline and Mohun Bagan share the top spot with Air India, who earlier won against Vasco.
Goalscorer Bagan: Jose Baretto (9th min and 57th pen)
Goalscorer Oil India: Durga (36th min)