Calcutta: McDowell Mohun Bagan coach Karim Bencharifa, on the eve of their ONGC match, had hoped the return of Okolie Odafe — he was serving suspension for three matches — will help the team to make a turnaround.
Odafe’s return not only inspired the team to register their first win since their resumption of the I-League campaign, it also enhanced the performance of the team.
In the end, Mohun Bagan trounced ONGC 3-1. Tolgay Ozebe, Jewel Raja and Odafe scored a goal each. If Odafe’s performance was the highlight of the match, the brilliant showing of goalkeeper Shilton Paul and Tolgay will also please Bagan coach.
Shilton thwarted the attempts of Yusa Katsumi and Eric Brown on numerous occasions to stake his claim to start for the February 9 Derby clash against East Bengal.
If he displayed solidity at the back, Tolgay combined well with Odafe. The Australian striker toiled hard, often troubling the opponent defenders with his through passes and rippling runs. He also scored a marvellous volley before setting up the second goal for Jewel.
Bencharifa was, obviously, happy with the enterprising nature of his strikers. “Odafe and Tolgay played together after around 100 days… But they combined really well,” said Bencharifa.
Bagan got their first chance of their match in the seventh minute. Odafe swivelled past two defenders only to miss the target by few inches. But he made amends in the 10th minute when he lobbed the ball superbly for an unmarked Tolgay on the edge of the box. The Australian didn’t make any mistake as his left-footed volley found the back of the net to give Bagan the lead.
Speaking about the goal, Bencharifa said: “Our aim was to score an early goal… And Tolgay stepped up to do the needful. It was a splendid goal.” However, after the goal, Bagan seemed to gradually slip away from the match. True that there were few Odafe twists and turns which delighted the crowd, but it didn’t threaten to change the scoreline.
After the changeover, ONGC could consider themselves unlucky when the referee Durga Naik overlooked an incident in what seemed to be a certain penalty. Nirmal Chetri had pushed down Katsumi inside the box in the 48 th minute.
It was in the 62nd minute that Bagan doubled their lead. Tolgay made a swift run on the left before making a backpass for Odafe. But Sandeep Sangha intercepted and made a weak clearance, which was picked up by Jewel. He calmly prodded the ball home.
Ten minutes later, Odafe got his name on the scoresheet by easily placing the ball past an onrushing goalkeeper Rehenesh TP. ONGC tried hard to reduce the margin and succeeded in the 83rd minute when substitute Surabuddin Mullick struck home off the rebound.
Mohun Bagan: Shilton Paul, Nirmal Chetri, Eche, Aiborlang Khongjee, Snehasish Chakraborty, Denson Devadas, Jewel Raja (Manish Bhargav 84th minute), Manish Maithani, Syed Rahim Nabi, Okolie Odafe, Tolgay Ozebe (Quinton Jacobs 76th)
ONGC: Rehnesh TP, Sachin Gawas, Bimal Minj, Adeola Hassan, Sandeep Sangha, Robin Gurung, Jatin Bisht, Yusa Katsumi, Fanai Lalmunapuia (Kenistan C 66th minute), Kailash Patil (Surabuddin Mullick 48th), Eric Brown.
Referee: Durga Naik
MoM: Shilton Paul