Minerva Punjab FC surged to the top of the 2017-18 I-League table after a 2-1 win over a poor Mohun Bagan at the Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday.
Chencho Gyeltshen (23', 30') scored a brace while Bagan's Ansumana Kromah missed a penalty in the first half. Though Eze Kingsley pulled a goal back in added time, it could not prevent Sankar Lal Chakraborty's side from falling to a second home loss of the season.
With Shilton Paul out injured, Shibinraj Kunniyil was preferred in between the sticks for Bagan. Dipendu Dowary was dropped from the matchday squad as Beikhokhei Beingaichho made his I-League debut for the Mariners. Aser Dipanda was surprisingly deemed fit to start even though he did not train on the eve of the game.
Minerva Punjab brought in left-back Deepak Devrani into their lineup against his former side. Chencho Gyeltshen was given a free role up front as Abhishek Ambekar, Moinuddin Khan and William Asiedu were deployed just behind him.
There was not much action in the first quarter of an hour but it was Kamalpreet Singh who went close first with a shot from the flank which went wide after Kassim Aidara released him.
The deadlock was soon broken by Chencho Gyeltshen who let loose from 25 yards out with his left foot, with the keeper only able to get a weak palm on the shot. Arijit Bagui was at fault for the goal it was his attempted clearance from Asiedu's ball that landed straight into the path of the Bhutanese forward.
He could have added a second goal soon but could not capitalise on an excellent opening, with the keeper saving his shot.
However, Chencho made amends two minutes later. Asiedu's wonderful ball on the run caught the Bagan defence sleeping and Chencho capitalised by thumping in a shot that Kunniyil had no chance of stopping.
Sankar Lal Chakraborty introduced Sheikh Faiaz immediately and Bagan did win a penalty in the 35th minute. Faiaz's cross into the box saw Dipanda tripping over the onrushing goalkeeper and referee Umesh Bora pointed to the spot.
But Ansumana Kromah's spot-kick was saved by Rakshit Dagar expertly.
It was more of the same in the second half as well but Moinuddin Khan squandered a chance in the 53rd minute from Chencho's through ball. At the other front, Nikhil Kadam was enduring a poor game on the flanks.
Interestingly, Minerva Punjab FC team owner Ranjit Bajaj was given his marching orders in the 78th minute from the touchline but he only disappeared into the tunnel after some theatrics directed at the VIP stand.
Naro Hari Shrestha was thrown in late by Bagan and that almost proved to be a stroke of genius when he connected a cross into the box. But his header was parried off by Dagar. Eze Kingsley would go on to slam a 30-yard shot in late on in added time but it prove to be a mere consolation goal.
The Warriors now have 19 points from 8 games while Bagan have 13 points from nine. The Khogen Singh-coached side have a slender advantage over second-placed East Bengal as they have played a game less and are a point in front.