Ludhiana: Substitute Aser Dipanda Dicka struck late as Punjab FC defeated Indian Arrows by a solitary goal in an I-League encounter on Monday.
Dicka came off the bench to score an 80th-minute winner for the hosts, who continued their terrific home-run at the Guru Nanak Stadium.
Punjab coach Yan Law made a couple of adjustments to his lineup with Liberian defender Teah Baysah Dennis starting at the back and Yumnam Raju Mangang making his first start.
Punjab FC skipper Anwar Ali was benched with Sanju Pradhan donning the captain's armband in his absence.
Indian Arrows coach Shanmugam Venkatesh, on the other hand, continued to show faith in his young crop of players and despite being without a win, retained the majority of his previous line-up.
Hendry Antony was given the nod to start, with Ajin Tom making way for him. Suraj Rawat started up front alongside Harmanpreet Singh and Aman Chetri, spearheading what seemed like a 3-4-3 formation.
Buoyed by their win over defending champions Chennai City FC, Punjab started the match on a bright note but any real threat they tried to stitch together were successfully thwarted by the Arrows defence, frustrating the likes of Jason Hart and Sergio Barboza Jr throughout the first half.
The game suddenly burst to life in the dying seconds of the half, when in the 45th minute, Punjab earned a free-kick on the left flank, 30 yards from goal. Sanju Pradhan stepped up to take it, and instead of delivering a cross towards the lurking Punjab shirts, swerved one on target.
Arrows keeper Samik Mitra recovered just in time to make an acrobatic save to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Second half got underway in a cagey fashion, with the majority of the game being dominated in the middle of the park.
In the 56th minute, a Calvin Lobo delivery was met by a diving header from Sergio Barboza, but unlike his goal against Chennai, his attempt this time lacked the venom to cause Arrows goalie Samik Mitra any real trouble.
At the hour mark, Dicka was introduced with Jason Hart making way for him. Just like the previous game, the Cameroonian striker proved to be the igniting catalyst.
In the 77th minute, a delicious cross from Sanju Pradhan was headed on target by Dicka, only to be denied by Samik Mitra.
However, the Arrows finally capitulated under pressure, when in the 80th minute, a miscue in the box led to Dicka finding some space, and with the ball lurking above his shoulders, the super sub fired home with an acrobatic overhead kick to send the hosts in front.
The Arrows roared back with real intent, showcasing the right ideas but lacked execution in the final third as Punjab FC registered their second victory on the trot.
The win takes Yan Law's side to the second place in the I-League standings while the Indian Arrows, who are yet to open their account, remain second from the bottom in the standings.
Fran Gonzalez helps Mohun Bagan beat Gokulam
Fran Gonzalez struck twice to help former champions Mohun Bagan halt Gokulam Kerala's winning run with a 2-1 victory in their I-League fixture here on Monday.
This was Mohun Bagan's first win over the Malabarians in six attempts and the win could not have come at a more appropriate time as it took them one point shy of leaders East Bengal ahead of Sunday's derby clash.
This was Gokulam Kerala's first defeat of the season as they dropped to the fifth spot.
Gonzalez converted a penalty in the 24th minute to put the hosts in front before Marcus Joseph produced the equaliser from the 12-yard-penalty spot to bring the match on an even keel.
After the breather, Gonzalez restored the lead with a towering header in the 48th minute, which turned out to be the eventual winner.
Gokulam Kerala had their opportunities with six shots on target as compared to four from Mohun Bagan but the hosts made their chances count to secure full points in front of a packed 14,370-strong crowd here.
Gokulam Kerala showed great character, constantly running down and stringing moves together and not allowing a moments' reprise to the Bagan backline.
In the 24th minute, Gokulam keeper Ubaid CK brought down Ashutosh Mehra inside the box and referee Crystal John pointed to the spot to award a penalty to Mohun Bagan.
Gonzalez stepped up and made no mistake in converting the spot-kick to give his side an early lead.
The intensity of the match seemingly appeared to boil over on the pitch, when Ashutosh Mehra was involved in a tussle with Mohamed Irshad. Both players were rightfully booked for dissent.
Mohun Bagan seemed to be heading into halftime with their noses in front, but the southerners had other ideas.
In the third minute of first-half stoppage time, Julen Colinas brought down Nathaniel Garcia inside the box, which prompted the referee to point to the spot again, awarding a penalty to the visitors this time.
Marcus stepped up and converted with fine aplomb to draw parity as both the teams headed into the break.
The second half resumed with Mohun Bagan coming out all guns blazing. The hosts kept piling the pressure in the Gokulam final third.
In the 48th minute, Gonzalez soared the highest to head home a corner and net his second goal of the game, which restored Bagan's lead.
In the 65th minute, Henry Kisekka, who had a quiet game until now, delivered a low cross down the right flank, which was tipped clear by Bagan keeper Sankar Roy, but the ricochet fell to Mohammed Salah failed to keep his composure and fired wide.
In the 88th minute, a Haroon Amiri attempt on goal was spilt by Sankar Roy, with Kisekka picking up the pieces and tapping the ball into an empty net. However, the goal was disallowed by the referee for an apparent foul on the goalkeeper.
With four minutes added on, Marcus had another crack on goal in the first minute of stoppage time but his thunderbolt of an attempt was tipped over and onto the crossbar by Sankar Roy, as Bagan held on for the three points.
The victory for Mohun Bagan, however, ended on a sour note when skipper Gurjinder Kumar was given marching orders in the final minute of stoppage time, rendering him unavailable for their all-important next game.
Sankar Roy, for his late heroics, was adjudged Hero of the Match.
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Updated Date: Dec 16, 2019 21:10:35 IST