11-point lead, title Bagan’s to lose
As smooth as a baby’s bottom — that is an apt description of Mohun Bagan’s journey towards the I-League title.
They had made winning a habit and the match against Neroca FC was no different. The hosts thrashed the Imphal-based club 6-2 at the Kalyani Stadium on Friday.
The victory helped Mohun Bagan consolidate their place at the top of the league table, with 29 points from 12 matches. They have 11 points more than second-placed Punjab FC.
This was Mohun Bagan’s fifth victory on the trot and they have remained unbeaten in 10 matches.
Fran Gonzalez was the cynosure. The Spaniard could have scored four goals had he not missed a penalty. Gonzalez is now leading the goal-scorers’ list with nine goals.
Fran Morante, Baba Diawara and Alexander Jesuraj Romario scored one each for the Kibu Vicuna-coached side. Philip Adjah and Subash Singh reduced the margin for the visitors.
“Today is Valentine’s Day. I dedicate this hat-trick to my partner Deborah,” Gonzalez said after the match.
Vicuna accepted they were now inching close to the title. “Three more points and we are closer to the object of course,” Bagan coach said.
Before the start of the match, the players of the both teams paid homage to those killed in the Pulwama attack.
Bagan’s intention was very clear right from the word go — to put the opponents under pressure, and score as early as possible.
They didn’t have to wait long as Gonzalez nodded in a Joseba Beitia corner in the 10th minute. The header was so powerful that Neroca goalkeeper Marvin Phillip stayed rooted to the spot.
The hosts got their second goal three minutes later. This time Fran Morante encashed on a Beitia corner. Neroca’s Zodingliana partially cleared Komron Tursunov shot, but the ball took the aerial route. Morante’s header nestled into the back of the net.
In the 24th minute, Gonzalez scored his second. Beitia’s cross from the right was headed in by his compatriot.
He could have scored his hat-trick in the 26th minute. But his penalty kick was saved by Neroca custodian Marvin.
In the 36th minute, Diawara made it 4-0. VP Suhair sent a cross, which the striker chested down and placed it home.
Five minutes later, Neroca got their first goal thanks to Adjah’s powerful right-footer.
Gonzalez completed his hat-trick just before half-time. Beitia picked up a ball from Nongdamba Naorem inside the box and sent in a cross. Diawara’s flick found an unmarked Gonzalez, who made no mistake.
Subash scored Neroca’s second goal a few seconds before the change of ends.
At half time, the hosts were leading 5-2. The fate of the match was sealed by then.
Neroca got a penalty in the 60th minute when Dhanchandra Singh stopped a goal-bound volley of Neroca’s Ronald Singh with his right hand. Referee Palmson Meses Raj immediately awarded Neroca a penalty. But Adjah’s kick went wide. Dhanchandra was shown the red-card.