AFC Cup: Jeje rescues a point for Mohun Bagan at Maldives

AFC Cup: Jeje rescues a point for Mohun Bagan at Maldives

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©Mohun Bagan Facebook

Jeje Lalpekhlua's last minute equalizer cancelled out Asadhulla Abdulla's opener and helped Mohun Bagan secure a 1-1 draw against Maziya S&RC at the National Stadium in Male on Wednesday. The draw means that the Mariners will have to wait a bit longer to confirm their place at the top of Group G.

Maziya S&RC: Imran (GK), Amdhan, Zhivko, Shifaz, Samaam, Irufaan, Hussain Niyaz, Yaamin, Imaaz, Asadhulla (C), Yasfaadh

Mohun Bagan: Arnab (GK), Raju, Sanjay, Kinshuk, Shouvik, Bikramjit, Pronay, Katsumi (C), Jeje, Glen, Shubash

Mohun Bagan might have lost their I-League crown to Bengaluru FC this season, but they are well and truly in the mix in the AFC Cup at the moment. The Kolkata-based club have remained unbeaten in their first four matches of the tournament, with three wins and a draw, and were in a position to cement their place at the top of Group G with a win over Maziya.

The last time these two clubs faced each other, back in February, Mohun Bagan annihilated the Maldivian club 5-2 with Jeje Lalpekhlua and Cornell Glen scoring a brace each. However, it was Maziya who looked like the better team when the match kicked off at the National Football Stadium at Male.

The home side dominated the proceedings with Mohun Bagan players showing signs of exhaustion. The uneven pitch, which made controlling the ball a tricky task, also played into Maziya's hands as the Mariners struggled to get their passing game going whenever they had possession of the ball.

Maziya, who are still in with a chance to qualify from the group, poured forward in numbers, and in the 14th minute, they came close to taking the lead. Ahmed Imaz curled in a ferocious free-kick from just outside the box, and Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Arnab Das Sarma was rooted to his spot as the ball rattled the far post.

Imaz, who scored in the first leg against Mohun Bagan, caused the visitors all sort of problems at the back. He was not afraid to run at the defence, and stretched them all over the place. He was ably supported by Maziya skipper Asadhulla Abdulla.

At the other end, Mohun Bagan failed to create any significant opening with the front three being isolated from the rest of the midfield. Towards the end of the first half, Bagan stepped up and showed more urgency in the final third. However, they failed to trouble Imran Mohamed in the Maziya goal.

The away side gave a much better account of themselves at the start of the second half, and Glen missed a couple of chances to put his team ahead. Mohun Bagan failed to take the lead when they were enjoying their best spell in the match, and it proved to be a big mistake.

In the 65th minute, Maziya captain Asadhulla Abdulla put his team ahead, and deservedly so. Substitute Easa Ismail broke through the Bagan defence and Arnab came off his line to deal with what a regulation cross from the right wing. The custodian reached the ball, but somehow spilled it towards Abdulla inside the box. The forward drilled in a low shot, which took a slight deflection off a Mohun Bagan defender before settling into the corner of the net.

Things went from bad to worse for Bagan when Glen was replaced by Souvik Chakraborty after the Trinidadian footballer picked up an injury. This significantly limited Bagan's options up front, and their best chance of scoring an equalizer fell to Raju Gaikwad towards the closing stages of the match, whose header from Prabir Das' corner, was cleared off the line.

However, just when the match was seemingly heading towards a surprise win for Maziya, Jeje delivered the goods for Mohun Bagan once again. The striker, who recently won the "Indian Player of year" award, equalized for his club in the fourth minute of the added time and rescued a point for his club.

The match ended 1-1 as Maziya kept their hopes of qualifying for the next stage alive. Mohun Bagan will now have to turn towards their last game in the group stage against South China to confirm their place at the top of the table.

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