I-League: Norde shines as Bagan beats Chennai City

Mohun Bagan reinstated its title ambitions with a hard-fought victory against Chennai City FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Saturday.

Sony Norde was a constant thorn in the home side's flesh.   -  M. Vedhan.

Mohun Bagan reinstated its title ambitions with a hard-fought victory against Chennai City FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on Saturday. Forwards Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sony Norde scored for The Mariners, which had to come back from being a goal down after Marcos Tank had given the host a shock lead.

Bagan retained most of its squad that demolished Minerva Punjab FC with injured centre-back Anas Edathodika the only notable absentee. Chennai had 'keeper Karanjit Singh and Haroon Amiri back in the squad after missing out on the trip to DSK Shivajians.

The game got off to a surprisingly high-tempo start with Mohun Bagan taking the attack to the home side. Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen clearly fancied his team's chances of a goal-fest and lined-up in an attacking 4-2-4 formation. The front-four of Katsumi Yusa, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Darrly Duffy and Sony Norde were aided by Indians Pronay Halder and Shouvik Chakrabarti in midfield.

Mohun Bagan's adventurous shape suited the home team which had come out with a plan to soak the pressure and hit The Mariners on the counter. Even though Bagan had the bulk of the possession in the first half, Chennai had three golden opportunities to break the deadlock. But, unfortunately for the host both Marcos 'Tank' and Charles De Souza failed to beat 'keeper Debjit Majumder in their one-on-ones.

Norde and Yuma were a constant menace from the wings and the Haitian created a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the 33rd minute when an out-paced Joseph Clemente brought him down in the penalty-box. But 'keeper Karanjit proved why he is rated among India's best to save Norde's effort from the subsequent penalty. The first half ended goal-less.

Seeing Bagan's difficulties in midfield, coach Sanjoy Sen reverted to a classic 4-4-2 formation in the second half with Yusa and Norde dropping back to the flanks. But it was Chennai City which took the lead, its first goal in the I-League, when Tank pushed off Eduardo in the penalty box to beat Debjit at the near post in the 52nd minute.

The home side's lead, though, was short-lived as Bagan found an equaliser through Jeje in the 57th minute. Norde atoned for his penalty miss with incredible trickery in the left-wing to put a cross for Duffy, who scuffed his effort straight to Jeje. The 2016 AIFF Player of the Year hit a first time volley past Karanjit.

Bagan started dominating the game from thereon and found its second goal when Jeje freed Norde in the left-wing, with an outside-of-the-foot pass that split the Chennai defence. The Haitian showed the right composure and slotted the ball into the corner to give his team the lead in the 77th minute.

Chennai had an opportunity in the 79th minute to equalise through Charles De Souza but Debjit, fresh from his ISL-winning heroics, produced a world-class save to keep his team in the lead. The Kolkata-based team went to hold the lead and secure three vital points that saw it climb to the top of the I-League table.