I-League: Norde and Yusa shine as Bagan beats Bengaluru

Mohun Bagan made its title aspirations abundantly clear with a 2-0 victory over Bengaluru FC (BFC) in a mid-season I-League clash here on Saturday.

Jeje Lalpekhlua of Mohun Bagan celebrate his goal against Bengaluru FC   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Mohun Bagan made its title aspirations abundantly clear with a 2-0 victory over Bengaluru FC (BFC) in a mid-season I-League clash here on Saturday.

While BFC (15 points) continues to sit on top of the points table, Bagan (14 points) is hot in pursuit, moving up to joint-second with 14 points.

In front of nearly 17,500 spectators at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bagan - led by crafty midfielder Katsumi Yusa - called the shots. The Japanese playmaker brought forwards Cornell Glen, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sony Norde into action with enticing passes. The unit nearly went ahead in the seventh minute, when a close-range shot by Lalpekhlua went agonisingly wide.

The home side, meanwhile, struggled to keep its rivals quiet in defence, and was disorganised on offence. BFC was fortunate to finish the first-half without conceding a goal.

Around 15 minutes after the restart, BFC sunk deeper when Lalchuanmawia was sent off for picking up a second yellow card. Bagan, quite naturally, went for the kill, and attacked with renewed conviction.

In the 72nd minute, a cross from the right entered the BFC penalty box, but a rusty Glen failed to make contact. In a fortunate sequence of events for Bagan, the ball rolled to Lalpekhlua at the far end. The striker scuffed a left-footed shot into the side-netting, sending the 500-odd Bagan fans into a tizzy.

Things got better for the visiting supporters, when deep into injury-time; the impressive Norde made it 2-0.

Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen stated that this win was the best of the season so far, but stopped short of saying that his team is now the favourite for the title. “Defeating BFC at home is huge. It will give our boys tremendous confidence,” he said.

His opposite number, Ashley Westwood, placed the blame squarely on the referees. “I don't know how this referee (Meitei Lairenlakpam) was assigned to this match,” he said, adding that his players never get the rub of the green when it comes to crucial decisions.

The result: Mohun Bagan 2 (Jeje Lalpekhlua 72', Sony Norde 90+4') bt BFC 0.