KOLKATA: Despite being down to ten men for a little less than half an hour, former champions Mohun Bagan registered a win in their first match of the season with a 1-0 win against Churchill Brothers in a Hero I-League encounter at a packed Barasat Stadium here on Sunday.
Balwant Singh scored in the 28th minute from a Pritam Kotal cross to set the tempo for the hosts after a sustained spell of attack. Churchill, who were bereft of any foreigners, put up a fight in the second half but were left to rue not having a finisher.
Substitute Angelo Colaco’s strike hit the horizontal in the dying minutes, their best chance of the game.
Mohun Bagan’s U-22 player Subhashish Bose picked a second yellow card in the 63rd minute to be given the marching orders.
Churchill captain Keenan Almeida picked up a head injury in the 20th minute and had to be stretchered off. Almeida, who was bleeding profusely on his way out, came back with a bandaged forehead minutes later.
The Federation Cup champions bossed play all throughout with Churchill — donning a sky blue away jersey– had only two men in the opponent’s half at one point.
The goal was always coming and in the 28th minute when a slick Bagan move saw Pritam Kotal cross wonderfully after being fed by Duffy for Balwant at the back post with the latter timing his jump to perfection to head it in.
After the goal, the 2012-13 I-League winners regrouped with Surchandra Singh and U-22 player Kinglsey Fernandes conjuring a move that troubled the Bagan midfield who were stifled to the edge of the box.
Duffy had a half chance as well off Yusa Katsumi’s pass inside the box but the Scotsman’s weak volley failed to trouble Priyant Singh in Churchill goal. On the stroke of halftime, Sehnaj Singh picked up a yellow for unnecessarily shoving Aniston Fernandes to the ground.
The hosts went into the break leading by a solitary goal.
In the second period, Duffy had a one on one chance but the former Salgaocar man got into a tight angle and relayed the ball to Katsumi who took too long to pull the trigger with the Churchill defenders surrounding him.
The ball fell to Balwant who passed to Sehnaj but the former East Bengal midfielder shot wide.
Churchill ringed in a like for like change bringing on Anthony D’Souza in place of Clifford Miranda. Bagan got another opportunity to double their advantage when Souvik Chakraborty side-netted off a Katsumi square ball.
The Kolkata giants were dented soon when rookie Bose picked up his second booking for a push on Seriton Fernandes which could have been avoided. Bose was booked first for a tackle on skipper Almeida.
Sanjoy Sen threw in Prabir Das at left back compromising the impressive Kean Lewis. Prabir made an instant impact after coming on, beating Churchill substitute Surabuddin Mollick (in place of Almeida – 74th) for pace down the left channel and setting up Katsumi only for the linesman to flag the Japanese playmaker offside.
Colaco, who came in place of Aniston in the 69th minute, hit the crossbar from the edge of the box as Churchill threatened to spoil Bagan’s opening day party in the last minutes.