Mohun Bagan play 1-1 draw against Maziya, seal knock-out berth
An injury-time diving header from striker Jeje Lalpekhlua earned Mohun Bagan a 1-1 draw against Maziya Sports & Recreation of Maldives as the Indian side confirmed their knockout round berth with an unbeaten record here on Wednesday.
Mohun Bagan, who came into the penultimate Group C match with a clean slate, were on the verge of tasting their first loss in five games before India international Lalpekhlua’s last-gasped strike in the third minute of the stoppage time saved them the blushes.
Maziya Sports & Recreation captain Abdulla Asadhulla had put the home side ahead in the 65th minute at the National Stadium here.
With 11 points from five games, last season I-League champions Mohun Bagan are certain to end at the top of the group, a reflection of their impressive run of form in this continent’s second tier club competition. Top two teams from each of the eight groups qualify for the round of 16 stage.
Looking to avenge their 2- 5loss in the first leg in Guwahati, Maziya came closest to breaking the deadlock in a goal-less first half when midfielder Ahmed Imaaz struck the woodwork from a free-kick inside 15 minutes before striker Abdulla opened the scoring for them 20 minutes after restart.
But just as it seemed Maziya were going to hold on for their second straight home victory, Lalpekhlua’s diving header at the death claimed a hard-earned point for Mohun Bagan as they remained unbeaten in Group G.
“Our boys tried until the last minute and we managed to score in the last minute. We are top of the group and that was our primary target,” said Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen. “The first half was not good for both teams and second half was okay. But this is my first AFC Cup and I’m happy so far with the results,” he said after the match.
Maziya almost opened the scoring just before the quarter-hour mark when Imaaz’s low curling free-kick from 20 yards hit the outside of the post. The visitors had to wait until the 33rd minute for their first chance of note when Raju Gaikwad’s cross from the right was met by the head of Pronoy Halder eight yards from goal, but Maziya goalkeeper Imran Mohamed was on hand to push wide.
And the game began to open up as half-time approached and Lalpekhlua spun and fired wide from 10 yards for Mohun Bagan before Abdulla’s volley narrowly missed the target at the other end as the score remained goalless.
The hosts went in front in the 65th minute when Abdulla’s shot from 15 yards clipped Balmuchu en route to finding the back of the Mohun Bagan net. Mohun Bagan were unfortunate not to level the scoreline with 10 minutes remaining when Habeeb Yasfaadh cleared off the Maldivian line as Gaikwad’s header from substitute Prabir Das’ corner seemed destined to find the back of the net.