AFC Cup 2017: Mohun Bagan 2-1 Colombo FC: Mariners seal Asian play-off berth, boosting derby dreams
Darryl Duffy Jeje Lalpekhlua Mohun Bagan Aizawl I-League 2017
The Green and Marooon brigade overcame Colombo FC's challenge to qualify for the South Zone play-offs as the Kolkata Derby looms large...

Mohun Bagan sauntered past Colombo FC 2-1 on the night (4-2 on aggregate) and have secured their place in the South Zone playoff for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup 2017. Two well-worked goals from Sony Norde (28') and Darryl Duffy (56') either side of half-time helped Sanjoy Sen's side subdue the challenge from the Sri Lankan side. Momas Yapo (88') grabbed a consolation for Colombo FC.

With the Kolkata derby looming this weekend, Sanjoy Sen decided to rest first-team players Debjit Majumder, Pritam Kotal and Sehnaj Singh as Sony Norde made a return from injury.

All three foreigners of Colombo FC, who arrived only hours ahead of kick-off, made it to the starting eleven as Zarwan Johar was dropped. EB Channa and skipper Rawme Mohideen too started after passing a fitness test.

Souvik Chakraborti, playing in a makeshift right-back role, was overpowered by Afeez Olofin a couple of times early on but both teams were wasteful when it came to penetrating the opposition's box.

Both Bikramjit Singh Jr. and Sr. saw a lot of the ball and their distribution was instrumental in the hosts creating chances as Chalana Chameera and Nasiru Opeyemi found it tough to contain Katsumi Yusa and Darryl Duffy.

Sony Norde broke the deadlock two minutes before the half-hour mark. Katsumi Yusa’s square pass was controlled by Darryl Duffy well and his timely pass to the Haitian resulted in a first-time shot from outside the box which nestled inside the net even though goalkeeper Mohamed Imran got a hand to it. 

In an encouraging sign for the visitors, Nagur Meera’s cross saw the Bagan defence caught napping as Mohamed Rifnaz brought up Colombo’s first shot of the game.

With just one minute left for the first half to get over, Sony Norde on the left flank out-thought Charitha Rathnayake as Darryl Duffy played a delectable diagonal pass to him. There were four Bagan shirts inside the Colombo box and Opeyemi was the only defender. Norde directed the ball for Bikramjit Sr and the Punjab-born made a meal out of it and shot it straight into the custodian’s body. 

Neither Colombo nor Mohun Bagan made any change at the start of the second half and the home team again started on the front foot. It took them only 11 minutes to double their advantage on the night. 

It was Katsumi Yusa who started the move with a delicious diagonal ball which found Sony Norde in space down the left wing. The Haitian went on to show the Colombo right back a clean set of heels and surged into the area and squared a ball for Duffy to tap in. 

There were a couple of nervy moments for Mohun Bagan after scoring their second goal when Souvik Ghosh was forced to clear a ball which Shilton Paul had wandered off his line. But the goalkeeper redeemed himself by coming up with two good saves to keep the scoreline intact as Colombo tried to get a toehold in the match. 

Nevertheless, it was Mohun Bagan who had the chance to add a third goal in the 76th minute when Afeel Mohamed handled the ball as he jostled with Jeje Lalpekhlua and the referee had no doubts in awarding the spotkick. It was Balwant Singh, who had come in for Sony Norde, who stepped up to take the kick. His shot was towards the right of the goalkeeper, who guessed the direction of the effort spot on and made the save. 

Having spurned a chance to add some gloss to the scoreline, Mohun Bagan conceded a goal in the dying stages which meant the scoreline was exaclty similar to the first leg. It was Dilan De Silva Kaushalya who found Yapo and the Ivorian powered past four Bagan defenders inside the box and slotted a finish into the right corner of the net to grab The Yellow Submarines a consolation. 

Despite the late goal conceded, Mohun Bagan will go into the Kolkata derby this Sunday on high spirits after securing continental progress and having seen Sony Norde show glimpses of his best form after recovering from a knee injury. For Colombo FC, the continental journey ends here. 

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