Mohun Bagan continued their dominance atop the standings, defeating Punjab FC 1-0 in a top-of-the-table I-League clash at Kalyani on Sunday.
Senegalese forward Baba Diawara struck the winning header in the 42nd minute to seal their eighth win from nine matches. The Kolkata outfit is now nine points clear of Punjab FC with 26 points from 11 matches.
Playing their final I-League season, Mohun Bagan, who will compete in the Indian Super League from 2020-’21 as a merged team with ATK, are now unbeaten in nine matches. It was Dhanachandra Singh who initiated the winning goal from a long throw-in which was headed in to the top left corner by Diawara.
Seven minutes later, the visitors got a golden chance to draw level but Dipanda Dicka’s strike ballooned over the bar from inside the box. Bagan scored again at the hour mark when Fran Morante found the net from close range off a freekick from Joseba Beitia.
But much to the displeasure of the home fans, the goal was disallowed by the referee calling it an offside, even as the linesman did not bring up the flag initially. But Beitia could have scored one for himself if the Real Sociedad youth product did not fluff two chances from point-blank range.
Mohun Bagan had another chance with 15 minutes left on the clock when VP Suhair missed the target narrowly.
Muzangu’s injury-time winner helps Chennai beat Churchill
Defending champions Chennai City FC rose to fifth on the points table thanks to an injury-time winner from Swiss recruit Jan Muzangu, in their I-League clash against hosts Churchill Brothers FC of Goa, at the Fatorda Stadium on Sunday evening.
The game which looked like it would finish goalless till the 84th minute, turned on its head in approximately the last 10 minutes, with all three goals coming in that period.
Katsumi Yusa gave the champions the lead against the run of play in the 85th minute, which was neutralised two minutes later by Mizo striker Mapuia’s third of the season. Muzangu then put it beyond the hosts, with his first goal of the Hero I-League with the game already well into additional time.
The win took Chennai to 14 points from 10 completed games now, and given they won against Gokulam, will now occupy the fourth spot in the league while the Goans remain sixth with 13 from nine.
Churchill had an early sight at goal in the 2nd minute of the game when a Dawda Cessay free-kick could not find a good connection. Chennai were slowly beginning to find their feet in the game. A Jan Muzangu run in the 20th was dangerously penetrative.
Although the Red Devils had the better of chances, just before the half closed out, it was the visitors who came scored, with Spanish striker Fito Miranda curling one in with the left from yet another free-kick, but was unlucky to hit the side-netting.
Chennai had the lion’s share of possession but the home side had more shots on target till the half-way stage.
Churchill’s Trinidadian striker Willis Plaza, subdued in the first half, got the first good chance of the second, as Portuguese Socrates Pedro played him inside the box in the 49th, but his chip over the keeper was clipped by Santana’s outstretched palm before Eslava cleared for safety.
Cessay also had a crack four minutes later and in the 63rd, and Plaza again hit the cross-bar with a header as the home side was clearly displaying urgency for a winner. Coach Tavarez expectedly threw in the likes of Israel Gurung and Mapuia to help out the trio of Cessay, Pedro and Plaza up front in their pursuit of a winner.
With the clock showing 85 minutes, Fito put in a delectable ball from just inside the Churchill half and found the run of Katsumi to perfection. The gutsy Japanese made no mistake with a clinical finish past Kithan. Chennai were ahead.
Churchill struck back two minutes later. Hero of the Match Glan Martins found Plaza inside the box, who squared it to Ponif Vaz over on the right flank. Ponif’s cross saw Mapuia rise above his marker to lob a header over Santana and into the Chennai goal.
However, there was drama left yet. In the third minute of injury time, Vijay played through Muzangu, and the latter raced inside the box, getting past one defender and away from another, to slot it past Kithan and break the heart of the home fans. Muzangu had announced himself emphatically to Indian football and the defending champions’ hopes of a re-run were ignited once again.