AFC Cup: Bagan confirms knock-out berth after a 1-1 draw

Mohun Bagan, who came into the penultimate group G match with a clean slate, was on the verge of tasting its first loss in five games but Lalpekhlua’s last-gasp strike in the third minute of the stoppage time equalised the score.

Jeje Lalpekhlua's extra-time header confirmed the knockout round berth for Mohun Bagan.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

An injury-time header from striker Jeje Lalpekhlua earned Mohun Bagan a 1-1 draw against Maziya Sports & Recreation of Maldives and confirmed its knockout berth in the AFC Cup here today.

Mohun Bagan, who came into the penultimate group G match with a clean slate, was on the verge of tasting its first loss in five games but Lalpekhlua’s last-gasp strike in the third minute of the stoppage time equalised the score.

With 11 points from five games, last season’s I-League champion, Mohun Bagan, will top group G. Top two teams from each of the eight groups qualify for the round of 16.

Earlier, Maziya Sports & Recreation captain Abdulla Asadhulla had put the home side ahead in the 65th minute at the National Stadium.

Looking to avenge its 2-5 loss in the first leg in Guwahati, Maziya came closest to breaking the deadlock in a goalless first half when midfielder Ahmed Imaaz struck the woodwork during a free-kick. But just as Maziya looked like getting its second straight home win, Lalpekhlua’s diving header – his sixth goal of the season – dashed its hopes.

“Our boys tried until the last minute and we managed to score in the last minute. We are top of the group and that was our primary target,” said Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen. “The first half was not good for both teams and second half was okay. But this is my first AFC Cup and I’m happy so far with the results.”

The visitor had to wait until the 33rd minute for its first chance to score when Pronoy Halder headed Raju Gaikwad’s cross within eight yards from goal, but Maziya goalkeeper Imran Mohamed pushed it wide.

As half-time approached, the game sped up but the match remained goalless. The host then went ahead in the 65th minute when Abdulla’s shot from 15 yards clipped Balmuchu en route to finding the back of the Mohun Bagan net.

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