Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan inched closer to a second I-League title with a convincing 3-1 win over debutants Tiddim Road Athletic Union FC in Imphal on Sunday.
Spaniard Fran Gonzalez (14th minute) scored his 10th goal of the season, converting a penalty to go top of the scoring charts, while compatriot Joseba Beitia (22nd) and Senegalese striker Papa Babacar Diawara (23rd) also found the net for the Mariners.
All four goals came in the first half with Nigerian Joel Sunday (34th) pulling one back for the home side.
This was Mohun Bagan’s seventh win on the trot and extended their unbeaten run to 12 games. It also took them to 35 points after 14 games, helping to open up a healthy 13-point advantage over second-placed Punjab FC.
TRAU, with 16 points from 15 games, remain locked in a relegation battle with city rivals Neroca FC and neighbours Aizawl FC.
As has been the norm recently, Mohun Bagan took an early lead when Komron Tursunov was adjudged to have been tripped inside the box by Dhanchandra Meetei. Gonzalez converted the resultant penalty with consummate ease.
In the 22nd minute, Beitia, doubled the lead with a delightful right-footed curler, which flummoxed Sayan Roy in the TRAU goal.
Just a minute later, Tursunov joined the party when he picked up an assist to put Papa Diawara on the ball inside the TRAU box. Holding off his marker with ease, the former Sevilla striker struck for the eighth time in eight games with a delectable finish across the face of Sayan Roy’s goal.
Three down in the first 25 minutes, TRAU fought back admirably and Niger recruit Joseph Mayowa was behind at least three clear scoring chances, which the home side created in the next 15 minutes.
They managed to score off one of them, when Mayowa took advantage of an error to surge ahead.
Once inside the box, Mayowa got past Fran Morante and also keeper Sankar Roy. The ball deflected off Morante’s heels and looped up for Joel Sunday, who put it inside an empty net for his first goal of the season.
Mohun Bagan began the second half with a clear intention of sitting back and holding on to their two-goal advantage.
The hosts though tried their best. Naocha had a shot in the 68th which was easily collected by Sankar and later in the game, he also got a header on target. Deepak Devrani rose to connect a header towards the goal, but they were all too easy for the Mohun Bagan custodian to collect.
Tursunov was given the marching order for a second booking with the clock a minute shy of the 70-minute mark as the visitors were forced to play out the last 20 minutes with 10 men.
Nothing, however, changed TRAU’s fortunes as Mohun Bagan held on.