Hosts Bengaluru FC snatched all three points at the Kanteerava Stadium following a comeback victory on Tuesday evening. Japenese midfielder Katsumi Yusa scored the first goal for Mohun Bagan in the 36th minute. However, the defending I-League champions bounced back to register an equalizer from Sandesh Jhingan (51') and the winning strike from skipper Sunil Chhetri (57').
Bengaluru rung in a couple of changes to the side that drew against the same opponents on Saturday in the I-League. Salam Ranjan Singh came in for Nishu Kumar and CK Vineeth added additional attacking impetus in place of Eugeneson Lyngdoh.
The Mariners also made a similar number of changes, with Bikramjit Singh and Jeje Lalpekhlua coming in for Souvik Chakrabarti and Darryl Duffy respectively.
The hosts started brightly, with Sunil Chhetri coming close to intercepting the ball in defence twice in the first few minutes. First it was Pritam Kotal’s pass to Shilton Paul that just evaded Chhetri, and secondly it was Eduardo Ferreira who was pressurized by the Bengaluru skipper to pass straight to Lenny Rodrigues. Lenny had a go from it, but it wasn’t troubling Paul.
After the initial spell of Bengaluru pressure, the Mariners settled into a rhythm familiar to their I-League clash on Saturday, with Katsumi Yusa taking turns to torment Ranjan Singh and Juanan.
The decision to play Jeje in place of Duffy seemed to have been paying off as well, as he was linking well with Balwant Singh to receive balls from midfield and play through Yusa or Sony Norde on the wings.
Yusa was gifted with a glorious chance to open the scoring by Arindam Bhattacharya in the sixth minute, as he passed it straight to him. However, the Japanese took one touch too many and the window passed him by. He played the ball to Jeje, who tried to locate Balwant, but scuffed his pass.
Bengaluru set this theme of giving the ball right to the Kolkatans, as three minutes later, Pritam was gifted possession. He found Yusa, who swung it in for Jeje to tap in, but he couldn’t convert the game’s best opportunity so far.
Yusa shifted to the left twenty two minutes in, and was found by Bikramjit. He swung in a beautiful cross towards Balwant, but he couldn’t keep his header on target.
Sanjoy Sen made a surprise switch as Subhashish Bose made way for Prabir Das with under half an hour gone.
Right before the half hour mark, Norde was presented the ball by the Bengaluru defense, and in the attempt of being too pretty on the ball, he lost it and wasted a glorious opportunity.
In the 36th minute, Norde was found on the left edge of the box and he tried to bamboozle Sandesh Jhingan. Succeeding, he made Jhingan commit and was tripped to earn his side a penalty. Yusa stepped up, and despite Arindam guessing the right way, he converted the spotkick to gift his side the lead.
The midfield duo of Bikranjit and Sehnaj Singh were playing a wall in front of the defense and Bengaluru were finding it difficult to probe for a way through.
Jhingan had an opportunity to redeem himself during the dying embers of the first half, but his header was just high. However, his moment of redemption did come, a few minutes after the restart albeit.
Albert Roca had brought on Eugeneson Lyngdoh during the break, and with Yusa also picking up an injury early in the half, Bengaluru suddenly found the impetus handed to them.
And it showed on the scoresheet on with fifty one minutes gone, as Jhingan headed in from Cameron Watson’s corner. The corner itself was the result of an impressive after Daniel Lalhlimpuia skimped past the Prabir and found Chhetri, who was able to thread it through to Vineeth, whose shot was deflected out.
And six minutes later, Bengaluru doubled their lead. Shilton Paul made two mistakes in seconds in the lead up to the goal, first dropping the ball right in front of Daniel, and secondly carrying it past the box to concede a free-kick. The skipper Chhetri stepped up, and put it perfectly in the bottom right corner.
The second goal seemed to deflate Bagan, as their creativity dried up. Norde was having a bad night, or it was simply a case of trying too hard and the visitors had no one to look up to for inspiration.
In the 66th minute, Juanan had a glorious chance to head in Watson’s corner but it was just a little bit too high. Minutes later, Udanta Singh set up Daniel who took a few touches too many and ended up wasting the opportunity.
Bikramjit was another casualty on the night as he was stretchered off, with Sourav Das coming on.
Under ten minutes to go for the final whistle, Watson, Eugeneson and Udanta combined to thread together one of the most beautiful moves of the night with intricate interplay, but Vineeth just couldn’t reach Eugeneson’s cross.
Shortly afterwards, Bengaluru had a goal disallowed when Watson’s corner was nodded in after Paul was impeded.
The Blues weren’t done and had a few more great chances to increase their lead, but the final touch was lacking, and Mohun Bagan were able to travel back home with a respectable scoreline that could have been a lot worse.