Bagan strike twice to humble Bengaluru FC

Bagan strike twice to humble Bengaluru FC

Football I-League : Lalpekhlua, Norde score for defending champions

Bagan strike twice to humble Bengaluru FC

 Defending champions Mohun Bagan took a massive step towards retaining the I-League title with a hard fought 2-0 away victory against fellow aspirants Bengaluru FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Saturday.

The ever-consistent Jeje Lalpekhlua (72nd minute) and Haitian forward Sony Norde (90+4 minute) netted for the visitors against a Bengaluru side who saw Lalchuanmawia sent off.

Backed by a sizeable 17,464 strong audience, Bengaluru began slowly with Chhetri being the lone bright spark.

Bagan, though, were lively from the whistle as Jeje, Norde and Katsumi Yusa created chances aplenty but found their final product lacking.

Their Trinidadian striker Cornell Glen had the first real chance of the game in the 25th minute. Norde made a darting run past a couple of Bengaluru defenders and squared the ball to an unmarked Glen, who then took a touch and fired well over the woodwork.

Bagan continued to apply pressure through the rest of the half but would have gone into the break disappointed at not finding the back of the net.

The home side came out after the break with a more positive mindset, playing a high defensive line while the attackers were finding good pockets of space.

But Bengaluru's hopes faded in the 61st minute when Lalchuanmawia's needless tackle on Sony near the half-line was adjudged to be a second bookable offence and the defender was given his marching orders. The Benagluru wing back was earlier cautioned for a needless tackle on Bagan’s Katsumi in the first half.

Bagan’s persistence was soon rewarded as a Kean Lewis' cross found Jeje at the far post and the forward hit a scuffed shot that looped beyond Benagluru’s custodian Amrinder Singh.

Egged on by their fans, Bengaluru then threw the kitchen sink at Bagan but to no avail while their opponents threatened Amrinder's goal repeatedly on the counter. The final nail on Bengaluru’s coffin came in the stoppage time as Norde got his name on the scoresheet. Jeje laid the ball off to substitute Souvik Chakraborty who then played a delightful ball into the box and Norde hammered it past Amrinder to cap off a satisfying night for the travelling side.

Speaking at the post-match press conference, Bengaluru coach Ashley Westwood raised the issue of contentious refereeing decisions and attributed it for his side’s defeat.

“The officials cost us the game, it is plain and simple. To begin with we were denied two penalties and the sending-off was unnecessary. I don't know how this man was allowed to officiate a game,” said a visibly disappointed Westwood.

Despite the loss, Bengaluru remain on top of the table with 15 points from eight games while Mohun Bagan and East Bengal occupy second, with Bagan ahead on goal difference.

Earlier in the day, Shillong Lajong FC played out a goalless draw with hosts Aizawl FC at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium.

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