An inspired performance from the Mohun Bagan skipper gave all three points to the Mariners as they outplayed their opponents from Goa, and could have easily scored more...
Mohun Bagan beat Sporting Clube de Goa 3-1, at the Salt Lake Stadium, with a hat-trick from skipper, Odafa Okolie (15', 42', 55') while the away side got a late consolation goal through Joseph Pereira in the 91st minute.
Mohun Bagan went ahead with a 4-5-1 formation with Denson Devdas providing a screen in front of the defense while Stanley Okoroigwe given a much more advanced role to play behind Odafa Okolie. Syed Rahim Nabi and Snehasish Chakraborty occupied the two wings to provide the much needed width.
Ekendra Singh of Sporting Clube de Goa started with Victorino Fernandes and Dawson Fernandes as the two strikers with Ogba Kalu providing the much needed steel from the middle.
In the very first minute of the match Dawson Fernandes almost broke free from the shackles of his marker, Anyichie and almost had a shot in the penalty box, but was tackled just about in time before he could pull the trigger.
Thereafter the game settled down with no team having any meaningful chance as the play was restricted largely to the midfield with Odafa being heavily marked.
It was in the 11th minute that Mohun Bagan had their first crack at goal. Syed Rahim Nabi was at the end of a fre-kick taken by Nirmal Chettri but the former could only head the ball straight to goalkeeper Ashok Singh.
Out of nowhere it was the home team who took the lead. A handball from Adil Khan outside the Sporting box saw Odafa Okolie make no mistake from the ensuing free-kick as he let loose a stunning shot to the far post that left the custodian with no chance.
Sporting could have equalised soon after when a moment of madness in the Bagan defence over who would clear the long ball saw Dawson Fernandes make the most of the opportunity. However Shilton Paul just about managed to punch it clear to keep their lead intact.
Odafa should have scored a second in the 25th minute when he was released by Stanley down the mddle but his weak shot was easily collected by the Sporting goalkeeper.
Five minutes later, Chettri overlapped Matthew Gonsalves and crossed the ball for Odafa whose header was feeble from inside the box which hardly troubled Ashok Singh.
Odafa had another free-kick from a similar position as the one from where he scored the opener but Singh was up to the task this time around.
Sporting could rue their poor defending from set-pieces as Adil Khan failed to clear the ball from a corner-kick which fell at the feet of Odafa who toe-poked it in.
The second half started with Sporting looking to peg one back, and the first chance came their way just three minutes into the proceedings as Victorino Fernandes broke down the right and released a delightful cross to the onrushing Joseph Pereira who made a late run in the box, but his header was straight to Shilton.
The Mariners almost made Ekendra Singh’s men pay for their profligacy in front of goal, as Odafa was through on goal after Manish Mathani released him. The Nigerian striker only had the keeper to beat however his low shot was parried away to safety.
The Green and Maroon defence had to stand strong as Sporting made forays into the Bagan box, but it was that man Odafa again who hit a classic sucker punch. In the 55th minute, from a Syed Rahim Nabi pass, he turned Joyner Lourenco with ease, and his fierce low drive gave no chance to Ashok Singh.
Aibor Khongjee played a speculative long ball upfield but Odafa showed tremendous acceleration to beat the two central defenders, and taking advantage of the indecision from Ashok Singh who was in no man’s land his effort, fortunately for Sporting, just rolled harmlessly wide off the post
It seemed Mohun Bagan had wrested complete control of the match as they kept creating several chances. Stanley made a bulldozing run into the box but his chip past a diving Ashok was just wide.
Odafa Okolie showed why he is so feared, as he went past past five Sporting players before finally being brought down in the box, but the referee was in no mood to award a penalty inspite of the protests from Bagan players.
Odafa had another opportunity when he did well to beat Ashok Singh but Adil Khan did well to track back and clear the danger.
Finally in the 80th minute, substitute Pratesh Shirodkar let loose a fierce drive from midfield, which Shilton could only parry for a corner.
Ashok Singh looked clearly rattled towards the end as he misjudged a routine back pass from Samananda Singh, giving Odafa time to pounce but somehow saved face by clearing the ball.
Odafa almost made it four in the 85th minute as a lobbed pass from Jewel Raja found him with acres of space, but thankfully for Ekendra Singh, the linesman flagged for offside.
It was in added time that the Flaming Oranje picked up a consolation goal as Dawson Fernandes broke down the right, but his shot struck the bar. Fortunately it was followed up by Joseph Pereira whose powerful shot struck the inside of the post and rolled out. The linesman gave the ruling in favour of the away side.
The Mariners have now picked up two wins in a row under caretaker manager, Mridul Banerjee while Sporting Clube de Goa certainly need to improve by leaps and bounds.
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