Amongst the I-League teams participating in the Super Cup, Mohun Bagan are one of the stronger outfits. However, the Mariners started slow in the Super Cup pre-quarterfinal on Sunday which allowed Churchill to dominate the early proceedings.
Willis Plaza’s signing has to an extent rejuvenated the Red Machines but it’s been a classic case of leaving too much to do too late. It must be noted that they did come back from being a goal behind against Indian Super League (ISL) side Delhi Dynamos to stun the Lions.
The Trinidad and Tobago striker was once again on the score sheet as he eased past Eze Kingsley and left the other defenders in his wake to slot past a hapless Shilton Paul in goal.
Bagan did create a few half chances but weren’t able to threaten the Churchill citadel. Dipanda Dicka and Akram Moghrabi couldn’t link up while Churchill’s physicality was a bit too much for the Kolkata giants to handle.
However, Sankarlal Chakraborty’s team got back in the game when Nicholas Fernandes committed a horrendous foul inside the box on Sheikh Faiaz. Dicka stepped up to take the penalty and although goalkeeper Ricardo Cardozo guessed it right, the former DSK Shivajians striker slotted it on the rebound.
The penalty was the turning point in the game and Churchill coach Alfred Fernandes summed it up when he said, "The penalty at the end of the first half cost us the match. 1-0 at half-time is always a great morale booster for the side. The last-minute equaliser lifted Mohun Bagan’s morale. They came back strongly after that."
In the second half, Bagan started the better of the two teams. Nikhil Kadam’s runs down the left flank did cause trouble for the Goan side.
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To Churchill’s credit, they restricted Bagan from creating chances from open play. The winner came through a set-piece when Cameron Watson’s free-kick was headed towards Dicka by Akram Moghrabi. The Bagan striker slotted it with ease as the Churchill defence was guilty of not keeping Dicka in check.
Alfred Fernandes’ side still had quite a few chances in the last 10 minutes or so. However, Plaza and Francis Okechukwu couldn’t hit the target from inside the box. Bagan would have heaved a sigh of relief and as Chakraborty mentioned after the game, his team certainly needs to improve ahead of the quarterfinals which will be against the winner of FC Pune City versus Shillong Lajong.