KOLKATA: Odafa Okolie helped Mohun Bagan reinvent their proficiency, which for some time has been disassociated with the team’s identity following regular failures, outplaying Sporting Clube de Goa 3-1 in a fourth round I-League clash at the Salt Lake Stadium, here, on Sunday.
Odafa virtually led the restoration act single-handedly against the Goa visitor scoring the tournament’s third hat-trick. A last-minute goal from Joseph Pereira saw Sporting Clube redeem some pride from the match, which had the city giant dominating for the greater part of the action.
Needing a win to steady their boat – which is the key image in their emblem – Mohun Bagan made good use of the opportunity as a fired-up Odafa went for the goal hunt right after the start. Missing the services of their Australian forward Tolgay Ozbey, Mohun Bagan employed their Nigerian goal-machine as the lone attacker while widening their midfield.
Despite their dominance in the match, Mohun Bagan’s performance did not show much creativity but the team did well in sticking to the single-point agenda of feeding Odafa with regular passes. Set in a 4-5-1 format by Mariners’ stand-in coach Mridul Banerjee, the team restricted the porosity in their defence while opening up more possibilities in their offensive.
The first goal came from a set-piece situation where Odafa showed a touch of class curling a free-kick past the hapless Sporting Clube custodian for a spectacular goal. The 16th minute goal inspired the Nigerian to go for a bigger margin but that happened a little late in the 42nd minute from another dead-ball situation – a corner this time.
Odafa, whose sense of position can be matched by very few forwards in the country, set himself at the right spot to receive a deflected clearance on a Snehasish Chakraborty corner and slot the ball home with neat precision.
Bagan appeared to lose focus after the break allowing their opponent the leeway to plan their own attacks. But before Sporting Clube could launch a well-orchestrated offensive Odafa found the third goal for Mohun Bagan and completed his hat-trick in the 56th minute. Putting his physical advantage to good use, Odafa shielded his markers on Sporting Clube goal-mouth, collected a through-pass from Syed Rahim and went ahead to find the net with a grounder.
The Nigerian goal-poacher had two more chances to enhance his and the team’s tally but missed the target narrowly. His 63rd minute flick went inches wide of the target while his next attempt – an angular shot – hit the side netting.
As Mohun Bagan appeared to rest on 3-0 lead towards the end of the action, Sporting Clube utilised the opportunity to reduce the margin.
Joseph Pereira availed a rebound after his colleague Dawson Fernandes found the first attempt coming off the Mohun Bagan upright.
Mohun Bagan’s Nigerian defender Celestine Anyichie had cleared the incoming shot of Pereira but referee Raktim Saha signalled it a goal after his assistant on the line, Magho Singh, pointed out that the ball has crossed the line before the defender had put it away.
Air-India fly past ONGC
NEW DELHI: The kick-off had to be delayed for 45 minutes courtesy a political rally. Traffic jams all over the Capital had forced almost all to reach Dilli Gate’s Ambedkar Stadium much late.
But it was worth all the pain. A scintillating display of football was on display and in the flurry of goals which followed, Air-India flew past ONGC 4-2 to register their first points in the I-League this season.
For Air-India, M Pradeep scored a brace (3rd and 15th minute) while Prakash Thorat scored the other in the 43rd minute. All of that happened in the first half. In the second half which was more about ONGC, the oil-men pulled two back within a span of two minutes through Kenistan (72nd) and Sachin Gawas (73rd).
But ONGC sealed the fate of the match in the 88th minute when ONGC’s Lepcha tapped it in off a Vijith Shetty corner.
Lajong back to winning ways
SHILLONG: Shillong Lajong FC came from behind to beat Prayag United SC 3-2 in a Round IV match of the I-League here at the JN Sports Complex, Sunday.
In the high-scoring affair, Ranti Martins scored both the goals for Prayag – giving leads both the times and Gbeneme Friday equalised on both occasions before substitute Boithang Haopki netted the winner for Lajong on a chilly afternoon.
After this win, Lajong now have seven points from four matches. Prayag United, who were second-placed earlier, have dropped two places in the points tally.
It was the visitors who opened the account first as early as in the fourth minute of the game, when a perfect header from Martins found the net. The Nigerian timed his jump perfectly to connect a Carlos Hernandez free-kick which was taken 34 yards away from the goal.
Their joy didn’t last more than 16 minutes as an unmarked Friday volleyed a cross from Sushil Singh, over the visiting custodian Subrata Paul to equalise for the home team in the 20th minute.
In the 28th minute of the game, referee Rahul Das, caught Wailadmi Passah handling inside the box and awarded a penalty-kick.
Ranti made no mistake to find the back of the net and gave the Kolkata side a lead. With the game turning into high voltage with the boys from both the sides charged up, referee awarded a spot-kick in favour of Lajong after he caught Rasaq Olidemeji Bello bringing down Lalramluaha Hmar inside the box. Friday converted the spot-kick and equalised for the second time in the match.
After the lemon-break, it was Lajong who dominated the proceedings. In the 68th minute, Haopki, who had just substituted skipper Renedy Singh a minute back, took a powerful shot to score the winner.
Bhutia sent off in drawn game
GANGTOK: United Sikkim FC managed to hold a spirited Pailan Arrows to a goalless draw, at the Paljor Stadium, here, on Sunday. The highlight of the match would definitely be a forgettable I-League return for Bhaichung Bhutia. The principal owner of the local team Bhutia came in as a substitute in the 78th minute and could only spend 6 minutes in the field. He received two yellow cards and was sent off. Both sides had number of chances to score in the first half but none could convert. Pailan Arrows were more composed and played a number of passes to make forays into the United Sikkim citadel.