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The Moroccan coach defended Chizoba whose goal proved to be the difference against Mumbai FC but the Nigerian wasted several other goal scoring opportunities…

Mohun Bagan edged past Mumbai FC 1-0 in their group C opening clash of the Federation Cup at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi.

Christopher Chizoba’s first half strike was enough to win three points for the Mariners but the former Kalighat striker was guilty of missing many chances in the game.

“I would give him the benefit of doubt. He doesn’t play in the Calcutta League and the others are competitive as they played all through. I only managed to organize one friendly match from the time we played against Pune FC on 21st December last year. He played just one game and that showed in the second half with regards to match fitness,” said coach Karim Bencherifa in defense of his striker.

The good news for Mohun Bagan fans is that skipper Odafa Okolie is likely to be handed a start against Shillong Lajong on Saturday.

“Odafa is okay and he wanted to play. I didn’t want to take any risk with him. I think he will be okay for the second game,” said the Bagan coach.

Shillong Lajong dismantled Salgaocar FC 4-0 and Bencherifa shared his thoughts on the opponents they face next.

“The ground in Kochi is large and Lajong play on the counterattack with their front three (Cornell Glen, Subash Singh and Seikhohao Tuboi) having a lot of speed. Their striker (Cornell Glen) can hold the ball well. It’s a very good team.

“Everyone is talking about Lajong scoring four. I would like to point that it is head-to-head first when it comes to qualifying for the next round. I am taking it game-by-game. We should not think about the Cup but the next game.

“I know this competition very well. If you want to win the Cup, you have to win five finals. It’s as simple as that. No calculations for the Federation Cup. Calculations can be done only if two teams qualify from one group which isn’t the case.”

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