Kolkata, 16 August Kolkata’s Mohammedan Sporting kicked off their 131st Durand Cup season with an impressive 3-1 win over defending champions FC Goa in the tournament opener at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK), here on Tuesday.
Muhammed Nemil opened the top scorer for Goa FC with a dream goal in the 34th minute of the first half, but the home side came back strongly in the second half, first equalizing through Pritam Singh (48′) and then going in with a six-minute lead Substitute Faslu Rahman takes the lead in regular time.
Talisman Marcus Joseph added the icing on the cake for Mohammedan with a third in the third minute of added time.
Both teams, placed in Group A along with Bengaluru FC, Jamshedpur FC and Indian Air Force, needed a win to secure a possible top two spot to qualify for the knockout rounds to qualify. Mohammedan coach Andrey Chernyshov will certainly return the happier of the two as he will see both his starting eleven and bench perform comfortably.
Goa gaffer Deggie Cardozo opted for an attacking 4-3-3 formation to start the game despite a relatively inexperienced side, while Mohammedan played with young Rahul Paswan in the regular 4-4-2 with Trinidadian Marcus in leadership went.
However, it was the Gaurs who drew the first blood as Nemil found some space outside the box after just over half an hour and caught goalkeeper Shankar Roy completely flat-footed with a delicious chipped shot from the turn.
The second half was all Mohammedan as Pritam Singh found a loose ball in the box after the Goa goalkeeper saved a cross from Sk Faiaz. He made no mistake.
Mohammedan kept attacking and Marcus in particular missed some high-profile chances. Then Chernyshov made a brilliant double substitution, bringing on Abhash Thapa and Faslu Rahman with just over 10 minutes to go.
The two substitutions combined effectively when Man of the Match landed Faslu at the end of an Abhash cross and Mohammedan was on course to avenge last year’s defeat. Then, when the game was in overtime, Marcus scored from close range to make it 3-1, to the delight of the 30,000 or so home fans in the stadium.
The game was preceded by an opening ceremony where Prime Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee was the main guest. Army bands performed and singers Papon and Rewben Mashangwa sang the tournament’s theme song before the main guest was introduced to players and staff from both teams.
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