Mohun Bagan have rekindled their title hopes after a clinical 3-0 dismantling of Albert Roca's Bengaluru FC at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in Kolkata on Saturday.
Bagan skipper Yusa Katsumi (14', 53') scored twice with Darryl Duffy's (25') strike sandwiched in between as The Mariners ran riot in front of their fans against the defending champions.
The league resumed after the international break as both heavyweights Mohun Bagan and Bengaluru appeared beleaguered as they lined up with a few enforced changes and some important men were rested.
Surprisingly, Sony Norde started on the left wing for Sanjoy Sen’s side after making a 20 hour-odd flight halfway around the world.India international strikers Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sunil Chhetri started from the bench for their respective clubs.
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The hosts were on the front foot from the word go. Sony Norde showed no signs of fatigue as he pranced around the Bengaluru defence with ease at times.Darryl Duffy missed a chance to open the scoring as early as in the sixth minute from Pritam Kotal’scross.
However, within fourteen minutes, the Mariners broke the deadlock through skipper Katsumi Yusa. Norde’s ball was met by the former ONGC playmaker on the edge of the box and the inexperienced Nishu Kumar could not help but watchYusa shoot low and slow diagonally into the goal. Amrinder Singh, who was making a comeback from injury got a few fingers to it as he dived to his farside but could not prevent his side fromgoing a goal down.
Around ten minutes later, Darryl Duffy made amends for his earlier miss. The Scot brought up his seventh goal of the season as he rose between Cameron Watson and Juanan to meet Sony Norde’s freekick, heading it right inside the net.
Alwyn George almost forced an own goal from nowhere just ahead of the halftime break but it was pretty evident that The Blues were not in the game in any way.
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Katsumi Yusa brought up his brace in the 53rdminute with another moment of brilliance from Bagan's Haitian magician. Norde ran almost 50 yards to beat the likes of Sandesh Jhingan, Malsawmzuala, Udanta Singh and Nishu Kumar before passing it onto Katsumi on the right edge of the box. Like his first goal, Katsumi hit it low and towards the far post, giving Amrinder no chance.
Roca changed his plans and the introduction of Marjan Jugovic and Mandar Rao Dessai almost saw them pull a goal back.
Jugovic’s shot was headed by Dessai with Debjit Majumder getting a hand to it, but the ball almost rolled in subsequently.
Bengaluru appeared clueless chasing the game in front of the Mohun Bagan onslaught. The Marinerscould have scored a couple more goals but Sony Norde and Katsumi Yusa both were given offside late on.
Roca’s young side did not impress much withSehnaj and Souvik runningthe midfielders ragged and even academy product Pintu Mahata was given a run out for the Green and Maroon brigade.
With the win, Mohun Bagan closed the gap with East Bengal with only a solitary point separating them with Bagan having played a game less.
Bengaluru remained on the fifth spot with 18 points from 14 games. Both these teams would now play in their respective AFC Cup Group E gameson Tuesday.