Mohun Bagan secured a home win to give Karim Bencherifa a fitting send off in what may have been his final game in charge of the team.Mohun Bagan beat Shillong Lajong 2-1 in their final I-League encounter of the season at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday evening.
Pankaj Moula opened the scoring for the hosts in the 6th minute before Boithang Haokip restored parity in the 61st minute. Christopher Chizoba then produced the winner with a 75th minute strike.
Karim Bencherifa made three changes to the team that played out a goalless draw against United Sports Club. Ichezona is suspended, Odafa Okolie has been released and Zakeer Mundampara was dropped. Aibor, Ujaal Hawladar and Sabeeth were included in their place.
Thangboi Singto also made three changes to his side with Passah, Robin and Uilliams making way for Jibon Singh, Lallawmzuala and Niwano Gaptoh.
Bagan began the game brightly and nearly opened the scoring in the 2nd minute. Christopher played a neat one-two with Sabeeth before going into the Lajong box, but a last ditch tackle averted the danger for the visitors.
Just four minutes later, the hosts made th breakthrough when Pankaj Moula Slotted in a brilliant cross from Ujjal Hawladar! Yusa and Fanai were vying for the ball inside the Lajong box, but both hit the deck in the process. Ujjal arrived on the scene and crossed the loose ball to the far post, where Pankaj finished.
Two minutes later, Lallawmzuala cleared a Bagan attack for a corner. From the resulting flag-kick, Ralte failed to gather the ball at the first attempt and it fell to Kingshuk in a melee. However, there was not enough space to shoot and the ball found its way to the custodian after some clumsy defending.
In the 20th minute, Christopher orchestrated a brilliant move that saw Yusa Katsumi slot the ball home from close range after an initial effort was thwarted by Ralte. The Japanese, however, was offside and the goal was ruled out.
In the very next minute, Katsumi used his blistering pace to get the better of the whole defensive line and went one-on-one with the keeper. He then played a square pass to the onrushing Christopher, but the Nigerian had already gone ahead of the ball.
The 36th minute though produced the worst miss of the game. After Sabeeth had run towards the Lajong box, he played the ball to Christopher who failed to place his shot from 8 yards out under despite being unchallenged.
A minute before half-time, Christopher played a gem of a pass to Sabeeth who made ample space for himself to shoot but put his effort wide as Bagan went into the break a goal up.
The start of the second half was just as frantic as the first. Two minutes into proceedings, the hosts had a goal disallowed for a second time. Yusa's cross was headed well by Kingshuk but the rebound fell to Sabeeth who instantly slotted it home. However, he was ahead of all the defenders when the first header was taken and was hence offside.
Subash Singh then hit the woodwork in the following minute. After Taisuke played the ball to Subash, he pulled the trigger from distance and timed it perfectly but was unlucky to see it denied by the frame of the goal.
In the 50th minute, Glen got the better of two defenders and strode into the Bagan box but with only Shilton to beat, he pulled off a tame effort that went straight into the gloves of the Bagan captain.
The game saw its third disallowed goal in the 52nd minute. Taisuke appeared just when Shilton dropped the ball to take the goalkick. He easily claimed the ball and rolled it into the net, but the referee denied the goal. He also booked the Japanese for arguing.
Boithang Haokip had only been on the pitch for a minute but dragged Shillong level just after the hour mark. After receiving a long pass from midfield, he took on the Bagan defense brilliantly to run deep into the box smashed his effort into the roof of the net.
Sabeeth then hit the post in the 73rd minute. After receiving a lofted ball from the midfield, he tried an overhead lob and although it went over Ralte, it hit the near post.
Bagan then restored their lead two minutes later. Christopher went on a solo run from midfield and managed to evade Jibon Singh just outside the box before producing a powerful finish. It proved to be the winning goal as Shillong were unable to create any chances of note in the closing stages.