I-League: Rock-bottom Bharat FC stun leaders Mohun Bagan in a 1-0 win
Hosts Bharat FC played the game of their season en route to beating leaders Mohun Bagan 1-0 courtesy of a fortuitous Subhash Singh goal in the rescheduled round 4 game at the Balewadi Sports Complex, Pune.
The home team started the game under pressure as they have managed just 2 wins throughout their inaugural campaign. But they faced a daunting task of playing the league leaders. The only consolation for the home team was their opponent’s form, which was unconvincing, albeit, by the standards they have set for themselves.
The Bengal-based side, which registered a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture, failed to produce telling performances of late after earning only 4 out of the possible 9 points. The visitors were boosted by the return of the injured Pierre Boya and Balwant Singh to bolster their attack; while in defence, Anwar Ali had to make way for Kinshuk Debnath.
The hosts made 4 changes of their own with Omar Jarun, Syed Nabi Rahim, Manjit Singh and Steven Dias coming in for Vignesh Gunashekhar, Asif Kottayil, Surajit Bose and Dipendu Dowry.
The home side started on the front foot and could have drawn first blood early on. A neat exchange down the right wing between Bobby Hassell and Steven Dias saw the winger free on the byline before cutting the ball back towards Manjit Singh. The striker took a moment before lashing his shot goalwards, but it was blocked. From the resulting corner, Manjit Singh should have at least tested the keeper, but his free header was hit over the bar.
Minutes later, a cheekily taken throw found Steven Dias yards from goal, however, his shot was blocked by a diving Kinshuk Debnath.
A lucky, but deserved goal for Bharat FC
The Lions rarely put a wrong foot forward throughout the half except for one mispass from Hassell. A miscalculated backpass from the Englishman fell halfway between keeper Arindam Bhattacharya and Balwant Singh. The onrushing keeper had to go way outside his area and his low clearance fell straight to Dhanchangra Singh at the halfway line. The defender who represented Chennaiyin FC in the ISL let one fly from 40-odd yards to catch the goalkeeper off his line, but his shot went agonizingly wide of the goal.
The Lions took a much-deserved lead in the 33rd minute owing to Shilton Paul’s lackadaisical approach. The ball fell into the custodian’s feet from open play. He took some time to assess his options before realizing that Subhash Singh was charging towards him. The hurried clearance hit the Lions’ forward before flying into the back of the net.
The visitors started showing some urgency at the start of the second half and were almost rewarded in the 54th minute when Balwant Singh’s shot from close range hit the crossbar before going out. Minutes later Sony Norde made space for himself before wrapping his foot around the ball, but his shot was aimed straight into Arindam Bhattacharya’s hands.
The Mariners kept knocking on the host’s door and started getting into the game with purposeful attacks as the game progressed. Their attacks nearly bore fruit in the 63rd minute. A confusion on the edge of the box ended up with the ball falling to Balwant Singh. With only the keeper to beat, he squandered the glorious opportunity by shooting over the bar.
The Lions could have easily doubled their lead after a good one-two at the halfway line. Manjit Singh put in a defence-splitting pass to goalscorer Subhash Singh. The striker ran 40 yards and had only the goalkeeper in front of him. He did everything right until he was let down by a slightly heavy touch at the top of the box. This gave Shilton Paul a chance to rush out and close down the shooting angle and was successfully able to save the chipped attempt from the forward.
The visitors kept attacking till the very end but were very contained by a tightly knit back four.
The result opens the race for the title wide open. Mohun Bagan find themselves at the top with 32 points, just one point ahead of Bengaluru FC. The hosts leapfrog Sporting Goa to the 10th position.