I-League leaders Mohun Bagan registered an emphatic 3-0 victory away from home against Neroca FC at the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal on Thursday.
Nongdamba Naorem gave Mohun Bagan the lead in the 27th minute before creating the second goal for Papa Diawara in the 53rd minute. Substitute Komron Tursunov added the third, deep into stoppage time, to seal the deal for the Mariners.
Neroca head coach Gift Raikhan made just a solitary change to his previous match line-up, with Ronald Singh coming in for Zico Sekle, while his Mohun Bagan counterpart Kibu Vicuna named an unchanged eleven.
Neroca had their first attempt against the run of play in the 16th minute, when a Marvin Phillip goal-kick found Boubacar Diarra, who, after seeing Mohun Bagan keeper Sankar Roy off his line, went for glory from the half-way line. His effort did not get the desired result as the ball gently nestled the top of the net, leaving Sankar a relieved man.
In the 24th minute, Fran Gonzales sent VP Suhair with a textbook through ball down the right. With only the keeper to beat, Suhair’s attempt ricocheted off the woodwork and fell to Diawara, who had a second crack on goal with an acrobatic scissor kick, but his audacious attempt sailed over the bar.
With Mohun Bagan clearly running one-way traffic at this point, Neroca had started putting more men in their box, making it more challenging for Vicuna’s men to penetrate the final third.
Nongdamba Naorem, with two orange shirts closing him down, released the ball to Joseba Beitia. With the ball at his feet, the Spaniard now had all the attention, which gave Naorem the time he needed to make the run inside the box. Beitia flicked it towards Dhanachadra Singh who had read Naorem’s run, and squared it back to him.
With three defenders closing him down, and Marvin Phillip making himself big and committing to the cause, Naorem outsmarted everyone and gently toe-poked it past the near post instead, finishing off the move he had started to give his side a well-deserved lead in the 27th minute.
In the 42nd minute, Moiranghthem Meitei handled the ball just outside the edge of his box and conceded a free-kick in the process. It was Diawara who stepped up and his thunderbolt of an attempt flashed across goal but Marvin Phillip got a strong right hand and parried it away from danger.
The league leaders went in at half-time, being firmly in the driving seat.
In the 53rd minute, it was Naorem again but this time, he left Dhananjoy Singh scrambling across, with his deft feints and with one smart switch of the ball to his stronger right, he delivered a calculated cross that seemed to float forever before it found Diawara, completely unmarked, for Mohun Bagan’s second goal of the day.
Neroca failed to weave any real threat whatsoever, as Mohun Bagan closed in on another victory. Despite being up by two goals, they were hungry for more and added another in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Late substitutes PM Britto and Komron Tursunov combined well, with the former playing a delightful through ball which left few tired Neroca legs at bay, while the latter made a great run to hunt it down and made no mistake in squaring it past Marvin Phillip to score his first goal for the club and putting the cherry on the top of an emphatic Mohun Bagan victory.
Mohun Bagan remain ahead of the chasing pack, taking their tally to 20 points while Neroca drop to ninth in the standings.