Daniel Cyrus’ first-half strike helped Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan beat Indian Arrows by a solitary goal in an I-League match in Kalyani on Thursday.
Cyrus scored the only goal of the match in the 19th minute.
Kibu Vicuna stuck to his winning formula and named an unchanged line-up from Mohun Bagan’s thoroughly impressive win in Srinagar.
Arrows head coach Shanmugam Venkatesh made just the one change, opting to field Harpreet Singh in a four-man defence.
Buoyed by the 8,538-strong Green and Maroons faithful at the Kalyani Stadium, Bagan were firmly in the driving seat in the opening stages of the match.
The first goal-bound opportunity fell in the way of the hosts, when in the 12th minute, a cross-field delivery by Fran Morante found Papa Diawara completely unmarked and despite having a free header on goal, he couldn’t capitalise.
Bagan, at this stage, were completely dictating the game, as the Arrows struggled for possession.
The deadlock was broken in the 19th minute, when a Nongdamba Naorem shot ricocheted off Akash Mishra’s back, and with the ball still in the air, Cyrus unleashed a picturesque left-footed volley about 25 yards from goal, leaving Lalbiakhlua Jongte in the Arrows goal completely stranded.
The Green and Maroon brigade kept turning on the style, this time through VP Suhair. In the 24th minute, he made inroads into the box down the right through some smart footwork and after cutting into his left, pulled the trigger with his weaker left foot, only to be denied by a great save from Jongte.
Coach Venkatesh was forced into making an early substitution in the 29th minute, seemingly frustrated with how the game was unfolding.
He took Harpreet Singh off, and brought on Aman Chetri, thus reverting to his previously tested 4-3-3. The Arrows, despite stringing passes together in the final third following Chetri’s introduction, struggled to pose any real threat as Bagan went into half-time with a goal lead.
Bagan almost doubled their lead following the break.
In the 48th minute, a Joseba Beitia corner was met by a towering Fran Gonzales, but his header hit the woodwork.
Much against the run of play, the Arrows almost found an equaliser when RV Hormipan got to the end of an Ayush Adhikari set-piece, but his header glanced inches across the far post.
In the 70th minute, it was Jongte who gave away the ball with a poor pass, which was latched onto by Beitia, who fed Diawara through and with just Akash Mishra to beat, he got his shot away early, which sailed wide off the post.
The fourth consecutive victory for Bagan took them to the top of the I-League standings with 13 points, while the Indian Arrows remain at the bottom with four points.
Chennai City FC edge ill-tempered clash
Defending champions Chennai City FC beat Gokulam Kerala 3-2 at Kozhikode in an ill-tempered clash that saw three players sent off in second-half stoppage time.
Gokulam’s Mohammed Irshad and Zohib Amiri while Chennai’s Mashoor Shereef received red cards as the thoroughly entertaining game ended on a bad note.
The visitors raced to a 3-0 lead thanks to goals from Adolfo Miranda, Pravitto Raju and Sri Ram but a quick-fire brace from Shibil Muhammed in the last ten minutes helped Gokulam claw their way back into the game at 2-3.
Their hopes of completing the comeback were thwarted when their momentum was taken away by the spree of red cards in stoppage time.
With the win, Chennai City FC rose to the fifth spot in the rankings while Gokulam slipped to the seventh spot.