IMPHAL: Mohun Bagan registered an emphatic 3-0 victory away from home against NEROCA FC at the Khuman Lampak Stadium on Thursday, January 23, to extend their lead at the top of the table to six points.
Nongdamba Naorem broke the deadlock in the 27th minute before creating the second goal for Papa Diawara in the 53rd minute. Substitute Komron Tursunov added the third, deep into stoppage time, to seal the deal for the Mariners.
Gift Raikhan made just a solitary change to his previous line-up, with Ronald Singh coming in for Zico Sekle, while Kibu Vicuna named an unchanged XI.
The visitors had the better exchanges in the nascent exchanges, showcasing why they have been the team to beat this season.
Long throw-ins in the final third from either flank are areas that Mohun Bagan have constantly tried to exploit this season and with Dhanachandra Singh doing the honours, his immaculate throw-in into the box was well-read by Papa Diawara, who headed it on target but Marvin Devon Phillip in the Neroca goal had it covered.
Neroca had their first crack at goal, against the run of play in the 16th minute, when a Marvin Phillip goal-kick found Boubacar Diarra, who chested it down well and after seeing Bagan keeper Sankar Roy off his line, went for glory from the half-way line. His effort gently nestled the top of the net, leaving Sankar a relieved man.
In the 24th minute, Fran Gonzales played VP Suhair through on goal with a textbook through ball down the right and with only the keeper to beat, Suhair’s attempt ricocheted off the woodwork and fell to Diawara, who had a second crack on goal with an acrobatic scissor kick, but his audacious attempt sailed over the bar.
Three minutes later, what followed was a true epitome of footballing poetry in slow motion.
With Mohun Bagan clearly running one-way traffic at this point, Neroca had started putting more men in the box, making it more challenging for Vicuna’s men to penetrate the final third.
Nongdamba Naorem, with two orange shirts closing him down, released the ball to Joseba Beitia. With the ball at his feet, the Spaniard now had all the attention, which gave Naorem the time he needed to make the run inside the box. Beitia flicked it towards Dhanachadra Singh who had read Naorem’s run, and squared it back to him.
With three defenders closing him down, and Marvin Phillip making himself big and committing to the cause, Naorem outsmarted everyone and gently toe-poked it past the near post instead, finishing off the move he had started to give his side a well-deserved lead in the 27th minute.
In the 42nd minute, Moiranghthem Meitei handled the ball just outside the edge of his box and conceded a free-kick in the process. It was Diawara who stepped up, and his thunderbolt of an attempt flashed across goal but Marvin Phillip got a strong right hand and parried it away from immediate danger.
The league leaders went in at half-time, being firmly in the driving seat and didn’t miss a beat even after the break.
In the 53rd minute, it was Naorem again and this time, he left Dhananjoy Singh scrambling across, with his deft feints and with one smart switch of the ball to his stronger right, he delivered a calculated cross that seemed to float forever before it found Diawara, completely unmarked, for Mohun Bagan’s second goal of the day.
Neroca failed to weave any real threat whatsoever, as the league leaders closed in on another victory. Despite being up by two goals, they were hungry for more and made no mistake in adding another goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Late substitutes PM Britto and Komron Tursunov combined well, with the former playing a delightful through ball which left few tired Neroca legs at bay, while the latter made a great run to hunt it down and made no mistake in squaring it past Marvin Phillip to score his first goal for the club and putting the cherry on the top of an emphatic Mohun Bagan victory.
The league leaders remain ahead of the chasing pack, taking their tally to twenty points while Neroca drop to ninth in the standings.
There were several contenders for the Hero of the Match, with Nongdamba Naorem being at the forefront, but it was Papa Babacar Diawara, who walked away with the accolade, having scored his second goal for his new club.