Kolkata, January 11
Minerva Punjab FC rode on Bhutanese striker Chencho Gyeltshen’s first-half brace to jump to the top of the table with a 2-1 victory over Mohun Bagan in an I-League encounter at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here today.
Gyeltshen (23rd and 30th minutes) wreaked havoc during a spell of uncertainty for the hosts’ defence to help his side continue their dream run and pip East Bengal to the top of the tree by one point and with a game in hand.
Mohun Bagan’s Liberian attacking midfielder Ansumana Kromah missed a penalty in the first half. Nigerian centre-back Kingsley Eze (90+4) scored a peach of a goal from 40 yards out to pull one back before new-signing Cameron Watson blew away a glorious chance to equalise late in stoppage time.
Ludhiana-based Minerva now have 19 points from eight games, while second-placed East Bengal are on 18 points after playing nine matches.
Mohun Bagan, meanwhile, stay in fifth position with 13 points from nine games.
The Mariners got off to a positive start, winning three corners in the first nine minutes. But as the half wore on, the visitors settled in and turned the tables on the hosts in style.
In the 16th minute, Kamalpreet Singh was teed up by skipper Kassim Aidara but the latter dragged his effort wide.
Minutes later, Gyeltshen scored, making the most of the time he was afforded on the ball to first dodge a defender and then shoot on the turn.
The strike took a slight deflection off Arijit Bagui, who had initially lost the ball to the Bhutanese striker, before going in off goalkeeper Shibinraj Kunniyil’s gloves. Kunniyil was also at fault, coming out of his line needlessly and then not making a strong-enough block.
Gyeltshen should have doubled the lead moments later after getting into a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper. But he delayed the shot, getting too close to the onrushing goalkeeper, and was kept out by Kunniyil.
The highly-rated forward did not have to rue his miss for too long though, scoring again at the half-hour mark. William Asiedu split open the sleepy rival defence with relative ease to find Gyeltshen, who, from a difficult angle, calmly shot the ball in off the far post.
Bagan came close to pulling one back when their Cameroonian striker Dipanda Dicka was brought down inside the box by goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar to concede a penalty. Kromah stepped up to take the spot-kick but his tame effort was comfortably saved by Dagar.
A frenetic first half ended on a sour note when experienced Mohun Bagan defender Kinshuk Debnath had an ugly altercation with Asiedu.
In the second half, substitute Naro Hari Shrestha, who replaced the ineffective Kromah in the 77th minute, came close on two occasions, while Dicka also had a chance but was off target.