A 10-man Mohun Bagan rallied to beat Chennai City FC 2-1 in its season-ending match and finish runner-up for the second successive year in the I-League on Sunday.
Bagan, with 36 points from 18 engagements, saw off an indifferent start to end the season on a positive note.
Despite dominating the action and creating numerous chances, Bagan was under pressure because of the missed opportunities. The news of Shillong Lajong scoring a 10th minute goal against Aizwal FC spread wild cheers in the stands and spurred the Mariners, who allowed the tourists to attack initially, to up the ante.
A series of raids, with Sony Norde playing a central role, forced Chennai defenders — Dharamaraj Ravanan and Wayne Vaz — to crowd the box and mark the rivals promptly.
In one of the fine moves, Norde exhibited an excellent solo run on the left and crossed it quickly to Raynier Fernandes. The latter’s header was stopped brilliantly by Chennai custodian Karanjit Singh in the 16th minute.
Balwant was completely off-colour and frittered away many a chance. A blazing pass from Katsumi Yusa from the right was deftly left by Norde for Balwant but the bearded forward could not put it into the net in 29th minute. He spoilt two others, even after Bagan conceding the lead, from close range only to give the home fans some anxious moments.
Meanwhile, Chennai made the most of a defensive lapse and Nandakumar beat Bagan goalkeeper Debjit Majumder to score against the run of play in the 31st minute.
After a string of failed attempts, Bagan drew parity when Balwant chested down a Sehnaj Singh shot and Yusa rushed in from nowhere to shoot it low past Karanjit at the stroke of half-time.
The spectators were silenced after Aizwal scored the equaliser in the 71st minute. They were thrilled again when Bagan went ahead in the 77th minute. Jeje Lalpekhlua, coming in the 65th minute, crossed it from the left and Daryl Duffy ignored his injuries to tap it in.
A debatable line call, which adjudged Debjit guilty of catching the ball outside the box and resulted in a red card, enraged the Bagan fans in the 80th minute. Reserve goalkeeper Shibinraj Kunniyil saw an edge-of-the-box free-kick flying over the bar and managed to keep the Bagan post safe.