Mohun Bagan edge past Yangon 3-2 in AFC Cup

Guwahati, March 16 (IANS) Mohun Bagan’s formidable offensive might enable the group toppers to maintain their perfect record in the AFC Cup with an intense 3-2 win over Myanmar’s Yangon United in a group encounter here on Wednesday.

India international Jeje Lalpekhlua scored a brace for the home team while Haitian forward Sony Norde scored the other goal at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium. Marcelo Fernandes raised Yangon’s hopes with a double strike.

It was the I-League champions’ third successive win in Group G at the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) second tier tournament, extending their dominance to 9 points that all but ensures their qualification to the knockout phase of the competition. Yangon dropped to the third spot with four points.

Mohun Bagan’s superb recent form allowed them to be the unbeaten leaders in the I-league as well as in the AFC Cup and they maintained their supreme form with a rousing start, taking a 10th-minute lead.

Japanese midfielder Katsumi Yusa’s swerving free-kick from the right was nodded home by Norde from inside the six-yard box. That gave the bubbling team, even more, confidence to mount forward putting relentless pressure on the away side.

Left winger Norde and Katsumi on the right were the principal troublemakers. keeping the full backs busy constantly. Mohun Bagan were without their injured Trinidadian marksman Cornell Glen but that didn’t deter them from doubling their lead on 20 minutes.

Jeje’s initial header was blocked but he was not resisted while guiding the ball in on the second attempt.

The two-goal margin was too comfortable for their own good. They remained potent while attacking but were complacent while at the back and were exposed by a swift play from the right.

They conceded a penalty that was confidently converted by Marcelo Fernandes in the 33rd minute. The goal restored a semblance of balance in the contest as Yangon gained in self-belief to attack.

Mohun Bagan though went into the break 2-1 ahead.

The second session was cagey in nature with both sides intending to attack but mindful of not being caught napping at the back. The intensity of the action went up a notch as both sides tried to dominate the midfield play to dictate terms.

Yangon were successful in pulling level just past the hour mark through an unmarked Marcelo’s second strike on the night, guiding home a low centre from six yards on 65 minutes.

Mohun Bagan’s response was equally strong. Stung by the equaliser they quickly regrouped instantly and snatched the lead barely a minute later when a lurking Jeje essayed a prompt shot from Katsumi’s right-sided centre.

That strength of character was ultimately the key to their win, a hallmark of their all-conquering march in the season so far.

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