Cuttack: Defending Champions Mohun Bagan continued their good run, notching up a 3-2 win over Shillong Lajong at the 38th edition of Hero Federation Cup at the Barabati Stadium here on Wednesday.
Strikes by Darryl Duffy (5th minute), Sony Norde (27th) and Katsumi Yusa (43rd) cancelled out Pritam Kotal's 3rd- minute own goal and Yuta Kinowaki's 80th-minute goal to aid the Mariners' quest in progressing to the semi-final round.
Currently, Mohun Bagan sit on top of Group B with six points out of two matches.
It all started in the 3rd minute when Pritam Kotal scored in his own net in an attempt to clear a cross, to hand Lajong the lead, much to the Reds' astonishment. In the 5th minute, the Mariners equalised proceedings.
Duffy rounded off Vishal Kaith after the Lajong custodian had come way out of his lines, giving ample time to the Bagan forward. Duffy steered the ball past a hapless Kaith and passed it into the net to bring the team back on level pegging after a frantic opening five minutes.
Lajong rattled the post in the 7th minute after Samuel Shadap's thumping header missed the target by a whisker. Six minutes later, Lajong's defence line made a goal-line clearance after Duffy's shot from a tight angle tested them.
The pairing of Duffy upfront with Balwant Singh proved to be a handful for Lajong defenders and Sony Norde's ability to carry the ball from midfield added more to their woes.
The Mariners strike force assisted on the wings by Katsumi Yusa played with intent and fluidity. Norde set up Duffy in the 19th minute, but the latter could only shoot it over the bar.
Sony Norde, in the 27th minute, handed Mohun Bagan the lead when he sweet-timed a freekick from 25 yards out and sent the ball curling into the back of the net.
In the 39th minute, Duffy could have extended Bagan's lead but Vishal Kaith made a quick reflex save to deny him from close range.
But four minutes later Katsumi Yusa had other plans as he bundled home a Sony Norde shot which was going wide of the goal on the far post to double Bagan's lead. The half-time scoreline read 3-1 in Mohun Bagan's favour.
Even in the second half Bagan were in the thick of things. Substitute Prabir Das came close to scoring in the 54th minute after his shot was saved by Kaith.
The Mariners played deep and soaked up the pressure piled by Thangboi Singto's men. Issac came close to scoring in the 58th minute but Debjit proved a fraction quicker than him and collected the ball.
The defensive pairing of Anas and Eduardo did not allow the Lajong forwards time on the ball, while the Bagan midfield dropped back to beef up the defence and safeguard the lead. However, Yuta Kinowaki scored in the 80th minute to reduce Lajong's deficit after a lapse in defence let the Japanese unfurl a venomous shot.