Mohun Bagan travelled to Shillong in hopes of reigniting their title defence but lost further steam as the home side equalized in the last minute to steal a point. Goals from Jeje and Katsumi Yusa seemed enough for Bagan to get the 3 points, but a late Uilliams header spoiled the Mariners’ party.
The two teams couldn’t have come into the game with more contrasting forms. While Shillong beat Aizawl to win the North East derby, Mohun Bagan suffered a heart-breaking 2-1 loss to East Bengal in the Kolkata derby on Saturday evening. And the psychological effects showed from the opening whistle. The I-league pace-setters looked jittery in the opening minutes, and Lajong looked the more dominant side.
After a couple of corners for Shillong in the first 10 minutes did not trouble Bagan, the first real threat came in the 12th minute. Kinshuk Debnath mistimed a clearance completely only to recover in time and make an unbelievable clearance off the line himself to deny Shillong an early lead. Another goal-bound shot was blocked by Lenny Rodrigues only four minutes later, and Shillong continued to rue their luck.
In the 18th minute, Mohun Bagan showed Lajong how it’s done, as Jeje slotted in the opener, punishing the home side for not taking their chances. Pritam Kotal produced a dangerous cross, aimed in for Cornell Glen. But the Trinidad man couldn’t connect, and the ball was coolly put in the back of the net by Jeje.
After a period of dilly-dallying, Pritam committed a needless foul in the 38th minute, just outside the box. Pritam picked up a booking, and Uilliams stepped up to take the free-kick and scored. The Brazilian placed a low curler around the wall and the net bulged as Lajong had their equalizer before the break. In fact they could have gone one better in the dying minutes of the half when Kinshuk Debnath was at fault again for giving away a cheap free-kick, again not very far from goal. This time, however, Uilliams chose to target Debjit’s near post and almost succeeded as the ball crashed off the woodwork, much to the agony of the home crowd. The two teams went in level at the break.
The second half started in a similar fashion with Bagan looking awry and Lajong showing sparks, and Ralte should have put the home side ahead in the 47th minute when a corner found him in acres of space, but Ralte could not hit the target. The home side’s woes were to multiply only a minute later when an Uilliams free-kick flew over the Bagan crossbar, from a tight angle. With Bagan looking clueless, Azharuddin Mallick made way for Prabir Das.
As the game ticked past the hour mark, both sides settled into a more cagey setup. But it was to change soon as Katsumi Yusa found the ball on the left wing, and after a small dribble, fired in a vicious right-footed shot after shifting from his left foot leaving Vishal Kaith with no chance as the Japanese sprinted away celebrating what looked like a crucial winner.
Lajong tried to fight back, and Penn Orji produced a delightful through ball, but Pritam cleared it before a Lajong player could get the end of it. More valiant Bagan defending followed as Uilliams’ dangerous looking cross was intercepted by Prabir in the 82nd minute. Bagan could have extended their lead in the dying minutes of the game but Glen took a shot when Katsumi was in a better opposition. All looked lost for the home side till the last minute of injury time.
In one last hopeful punt, Lajong launched a high ball forward. Luciano was caught under it and Uilliams steered clear to head home an equalizer, breaking Bagan hearts in the process.
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