I-League: Balwant Singh's brilliance helps Mohun Bagan script 3-1 victory over DSK Shivajians
Balwant Singh slammed a brilliant brace in a magical two-minute display as Mohun Bagan bounced back from a goal down to beat DSK Shivajians FC 3-1 in the I-League in Kolkata on Saturday.
Kolkata: Balwant Singh slammed a brilliant brace in a magical two-minute display as Mohun Bagan bounced back from a goal down to beat DSK Shivajians FC 3-1 in the I-League in Kolkata on Saturday.
With the Mohun Bagan defence caught napping, Milan Singh Ongnam put the Pune outfit ahead in the 33rd minute but the Mariners nosed ahead with Balwant's double strikes (42nd and 44th) from Pritam Kotal assists at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium.
Mohun Bagan earned a penalty in the 87th minute after Gourmangi Singh brought down substitute Jeje Lalpekhlua and captain Katsumi Yusa (89th) minute sealed the issue with Shivajians veteran goalkeeper Subrata Paul diving the other way.
Having drawn their last two matches, Mohun Bagan returned to winning ways and caught up with arch-rivals East Bengal, though the Mariners remained second on points difference.
Both the Kolkata heavyweights now occupy the top two places with an identical six wins and three draws and they remained unbeaten after nine matches.
There were some early pressure from Mohun Bagan but it was the Pune outfit that drew the first blood after its Spanish midfielder Juan Quero, from the left wing, beat Eduardo Ferreira and set up Milan with a low cross.
The Manipuri also showed a fine presence of mind by not falling into the offside trap as he surged forward before striking with a first-touch goal to put Mohun Bagan under pressure.
But a tactical overlapping of Kotal, after Probir Das came in place for Shehnaj Singh, resulted in the Mariners' turnaround as they hit back twice in space of two minutes to gain the advantage.
Kotal produced two measured passes from the right wing and Hero of the Match Balwant seized the opportunities on both occasions for his double.
Kotal's cross from a Sony Norde back pass was parried off wrongly into open space by the Pune goalkeeper Paul and Balwant easily headed it into the open net.
In an action replay, Kotal once again set it up and this time Balwant was on the floor and blasted the ball into the top of the right corner with a powerful low volley.
Balwant was in the thick of action in the second half as he got more than one chance for his hattrick but could not add another to his name.
In a 56th minute move, Balwant was set up by Yusa Katsumi from the left but the star of the match was late in his shot.
Kotal once again fed Balwant in the 59th minute from the right but his shot again ballooned over.
Applying pressure in the second half, Norde cut back from left to set up Balwant for a hattrick in front of the goal mouth, but he missed his chance.
There was an excellent chance for Mohun Bagan to stretch the lead in the 52nd minute but Darryl Duffy failed to finish, resulting in a goalmouth tussle as they missed back to back chances.
Shivajians earned a freekick as they nearly equalised in the 82nd minute but their Irish recruit Shane McFaul's flick went wide.
The Black Panthers, who were the first civilian side to win the Asia's oldest football tournament way back in 1940, last won the title in 2013. Being the only team from Kolkata, they would be keen to clinch a third title with a strong support behind them.
Anything less than the trophy at SAFF Championship will be seen as a failure for Igor Stimac and the India men's football team.
Stimac said: "We had everything in control, we dominated the game, and had a one-nil advantage, and even had a one-man advantage. But despite all of that, we started giving away simple passes, making unnecessary mistakes."