Ludhiana: Mohun Bagan managed to snatch a solitary goal win against Minerva Punjab through Sony Norde’s strike deep into the second half in what was a crucial victory in their quest to recapture the I-League crown here on Saturday.
Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen knew nothing less than a win would matter with Aizawl having notched up a victory against Churchill Brothers earlier in the day. In the end, Sen got what and his team wanted as Norde scored the all-important goal in the 84th minute.
The win took Mohun Bagan to the top of the table, tied on 33 points with Aizawl from 16 matches each but ahead on the head-to-head record.
Jeje Lalpekhlua replaced Balwant Singh alongside Darryl Duffy while youngster Pintu Mahato came in for Azharuddin Mallick on the right.
Minerva, meanwhile, made six changes from their disappointing defeat against Chennai City FC. Arshdeep, Arashpreet, Simranjeet, Germanpreet, Ngaihte and Pandit all came into the side.
Mohun Bagan had a freekick in the 20th minute and Eduardo Fereira forced goalkeeper Arshdeep into a save off his header.
Four minutes later, Pintu Mahato ran onto a delightful through pass from Sehnaj Singh but Arashpreet was there to block his pass into the box towards Duffy. In the 36th minute, Kareem Nurain almost scored an own goal after his block off Jeje forced Arshdeep into parrying it off the crossbar.
Five minutes into the second half, Pritam Kotal found himself in space outside the box but his shot was just over.
The game saw a prolonged break of about 15 minutes following malfunctioning floodlights. It seemed to break Mohun Bagan’s momentum as Simranjeet Singh’s shot had beaten keeper Debjit but unfortunately struck the post and went out. In the 62nd minute, Norde dribbled past a couple of players but the combined work of the goalkeeper and Kareem saw it saved for a corner.
In the 72nd minute, Katsumi Yusa found plenty of space down the right and his cross was tipped out by the goalkeeper before Moinuddin made a fantastic goal-line clearance.
However, four minutes later, Norde turned saviour for Mohun Bagan when he ran past the advance defensive line and slotted the ball expertly past an onrushing Arshdeep to score Bagan’s lone goal.
Jeje had an opportunity to add another goal in the added time but his shot from outside the box was punched out by Arshdeep who had a brilliant game.