AFC Cup: Jeje brace helps Mohun Bagan post 4-1 win

Jeje Lalpekhlua came good for Mohun Bagan.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

Mohun Bagan thumped Club Valencia of Maldives 4-1 in the return leg of the AFC Cup play-off here at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium on Tuesday. Jeje Lalpekhlua scored twice but was denied a hat-trick as the match supervisors sought to allot the third goal to the Valencia defender Hussain Nihan, who seemed to have the final touch in the incident in question. Sony Norde struck the final goal to complete the scoring process and helped Mohun Bagan join Bengaluru FC, Maldivian Maziya and Abahani Krirachakra of Dhaka in the group league.

Mohun Bagan went into the lead in the second minute of the action when the Valencia left-back Hisam Salem was hauled up for handling the ball inside own box while trying to stop an attempt from Jeje. The India international found the net from the resultant penalty to give the host the lead almost immediately after the kick-off. Mohun Bagan maintained the dominance for the rest of the opening session but could not enhance the lead as both Jeje and his upfront colleague Balwant Singh missed two easy chances in the 18th and 23rd minutes.

The visitor, which had played a 1-1 draw at home in Male in the first leg, struggled to put up the requisite opposition that could unsettle the host. Mohun Bagan doubled the lead in the last minute of the first half when Jeje went for a nice cross from Balwant in the Valencia box. The Bagan forward seemed to find a touch on the ball but referee Vo Minh Tri of Vietnam determined that the final touch on the goal-bound ball came from Nihan.

The second half saw Valencia put up a much reformed performance and that helped the visitor pull one back through its Nigerian striker Godfrey Omodu, in the 52nd minute (2-1). A 2-2 draw would have helped Valencia pip Mohun Bagan on the away-goal rule but before the visitor could plot another strike, the host introduced Japanese play-maker Katsumi Yusa in the middle. This quickly turned things in the host’s favour as Yusa fashioned two brilliant moves that saw Bagan scoring twice in quick succession. Jeje made it 3-1 in the 82nd minute with a nice header while Norde complemented a nice pass from Yusa to impress a gathering of around 4000 fans with fine left-footed finishing in the 87th minute.

Following Mohun Bagan's win, the club is through to Group E of the AFC Cup main draw where it has been clubbed with Bengaluru FC. As a consequence, BFC and Bagan will face each other thrice in a 20-day window starting with the I-League fixture in Bengaluru on March 11.  Three days later the two will meet in the AFC Cup again in Bengaluru. After the international break, Bagan will host BFC on April 1 in the I-League reverse fixture.

The result: Mohun Bagan 4 (Jeje Lalpekhlua 2-pen, 82, Hussain Nihan 45-og, Sony Norde 87) bt Club Valencia 1 (Godfrey Omodu 52).

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