AFC Cup: Mohun Bagan reach group stage
KOLKATA, 28th FEB: Jeje Lalpekhlua fired a brace to propel city football giants Mohun Bagan to the AFC Cup group stage with an emphatic 4-1 win over Maldives' Club Valencia in the second leg of their South Zone play-off here on Monday. The one-sided game at the Rabindra Sarobar stadium saw star winger Sony Norde emerge as the other scorer for Mohun Bagan, who also profited from an own goal by Nihan Hussain on the stroke of half-time.
Godfrey Omodu reduced the margin for the visitors who are now out of the tournament. With the two sides having finished 1-1 in the first leg, Mohun Bagan won the double bill 5-2 on aggregate.
Mohun Bagan would now be pitted in Group E of the tourney opposite the previous edition's losing finalists and Indian rivals Bengaluru FC, Maldivian champions Maziya Sports and Recreation and Abahani Limited Dhaka of Bangladesh.
In the match against Valencia, Mohun Bagan took the lead in the second minute when Ahmed Usam of Valencia committed a handball following a Jeje shot and the referee awarded a penalty. Jeje made no mistake in converting the easiest of set pieces.
Mohun Bagan kept up the pressure, as Jeje and Haitian international Norde looked in fine touch, but poor finishing robbed the Indians time and again of the opportunity of widening the gulf.
Finally seconds before half time, Balwant essayed a cross from the right and both Nihan and Jeje went for the ball. However, Nihan put the ball into his own goal, as Bagan went ahead 2-0 at halftime.
Crossing over, Norde's placement from inside the box travelled wide, and a little later he set up Balwant Singh with a gilt edged opportunity, but the latter muffed it. Valencia pulled one back in the 52nd as Omodu ran a solo and finished off with a power-packed shot.
Valencia for some time showed more purpose, but missed some easy chances. With eight minutes of play left, Jeje made the scoreline 3-1 for the hosts after substitute Katsumi found Prabir Das, who addressed a cross into the box. A diving Jeje nodded it home.
Mohun Bagan seemed on a song, and two minutes later Katsumi slid a pass for Norde who blasted it into the net. The win sees Mohun Bagan progress to Group E of the AFC Cup where they will meet Bengaluru FC, Maziya and Dhaka Abahani. Their next AFC Cup encounter sees them tee up against familiar foes, Bengaluru away from home.