Mohun Bagan secured a narrow 3-2 win over Mumbai FC in a dramatic I-League encounter at the Kalyani Stadium courtesy of a fortuitous stoppage time own goal from Faizal Rehman.
Bagan started in their usual 4-3-3 formation with C.S. Sabeeth joining the lethal duo of Odafa Okolie and Tolgay Ozbey upfront. As Anyiche Ichezona came back from suspension, Quinton Jacobs made way for the Nigerian who returned to his position at the heart of the defense. Nirmal Chettri had to start as a makeshift center-back as AIborlang Khongjee was suspended. Biswajit Saha and Syed Rahim Nabi played as the two full-backs.
Mumbai FC was deprived of the services of ND Opara and Evans Quao as both of the foreigners were suspended for the match. Khalid Jamil’s men started in a 4-4-2 formation with the talismanic Yasif Yakubu pairing up with Gabriel Ferandes in the forward line.
The game got off to a slow start under the scorching heat with both teams trying to feed their strikers with long balls. The first chance fell to the home side as Syed Rahim Nabi crossed well for Odafa who was lurking around the six yard box. The Mohun Bagan skipper however, was unable to finish the move as his weak header was directed straight at the goalkeeper.
In the 11th minute, Odafa got his second chance of the day. The Bagan striker who scored a hat-trick in the last match dribbled past a few defenders before taking a shot which went past the goalpost.
The Mumbai midfield looked confused at times, lacking width and a natural playmaker. Yusif Yakubu was isolated up front as the visitors failed to create anything of note.
The Bagan midfield was elegant though with Manish Mathani and Snehasish Chakraborty working hard to retain and retrieve possession.
The hosts scored the opening goal in the 35th minute. Snehasish ran down the middle and played a pass to the edge of the box. Tolgay Ozbey’s neat first touch took him into the penalty box. The Australian then pulled off a strong shot which was driven low into the Mumbai FC net, giving their goalkeeper no chance.
The Mariners got a golden opportunity to double their lead when Tolgay Ozbey was brought down in the box by Ashutosh Mehta. However, Odafa Okolie, the highest scorer for Mohun Bagan this season was unable to convert from the spot as Kunal Sawant made a fabulous save with his fingertips.
The first half ended with the home team leading 1-0, a lead which was well deserved given the aimless play of the away side.
The scene was no different after the break as waves of Mohun Bagan attacks continued to hit the Mumbai defense. It took them no more than seven minutes to double their lead when the skipper made amends for missing a penalty by scoring with a brilliant header. Tolgay Ozbey had a good run down the right side of the box and provided the prolific Nigerian with a ball at the far post, which he slotted into the net with ease, taking his goal-tally to 16 for the season.
However, the ecstasy of the home crowd didn’t last long as the travelling side halved the deficit against the run of play with Darren Caldeira getting on the score sheet. The Mohun Bagan defense made a blunder while attempting an offside trap. Haroon Amiri and Caldeira had only Shilton Paul to beat and the former squared ball for his team-mate to score in the 56th minute.
Both teams got their share of chances but neither could find that final ball. Tolgay had a good shot at target from close range but was his powerful shot flew over the crossbar. Odafa’s shot was also saved by goalkeeper.
Mumbai FC then took the initiative and started to look more dominant in the midfield. Karim Bencherifa took off Tolgay and brought in Quinton Jacobs, a decision that didn’t exactly pan out.
The visitors continued to press forward and had an effort cleared off the line. Then in the 88th minute, John Coutinho’s corner was headed back out to him, his cross was also blocked off but then he left fly with the resulting rebound which blazed into the top corner. The stunning strike capped off an excellent period for Mumbai FC who looked certain to salvage a draw at the very least.
However, there was another twist in the tale and it took place in the sixth minute of stoppage time. Mumbai began to sit deeper after their equalizer and two nervy attempts at clearing the ball resulted in a corner. With the last bit of action of the game, the corner kick deflected off Faizal Rehman and ended up in the back of the net. The own goal was a harsh ending to the game for Mumbai.