Panchkula: Gagandeep Bali netted a wonderful brace lifting Minerva Punjab to the top of the table, beating Shillong Lajong 3-2, who succumbed to their third consecutive loss at the Tau Devi Lal stadium in Chandigarh here on Wednesday.
The victory, Minerva’s first after a streak of two winless matches lifted them to the top with 29 points after 13 games — two above second placed Neroca FC. Lajong, after 15 matches are fifth with 17 points.
Minerva were leading 2-0 at the break after Cote d’Ivoire defender Guy Eric Dano put them ahead at early as the sixth minute and Bali added icing to the cake with another, two minutes into the extra-time.
But a second-half onslaught by Lajong brought then back into the contest and had the referee allowed Abdoulaye Koffi’s 84th minute strike to stand, things could well have been different for the ‘Highlanders’.
A Sukhdev Singh long-throw was paved into Dano’s path by Chencho Gyeltshen inside the box and the tall defender rifled it into the net with an excellent volley. A goal down within the first six minutes, Lajong pressed hard and put more men at the front which allowed Minerva plenty of space and they responded with a second goal.
It was from Gyeltshen’s double assist after the Bhutanese found Bali’s run with a delicate ball which the forward tapped into goal.
But Lajong looked a different side after the break. It seemed that the time had finally arrived for them to dominate and they did with two goals in the space of four minutes. Samuel Lalmuanpuia’s free-kick found Lawrence Doe who made no mistake to score levelling terms in the 64th minute. Four passes before the second, Daniel Odafin had netted from a bullet after a rebound fell to him.
The visitors scored a third 20 minutes later but the goal was ruled out after the referee decided against Koffi, who pushed Minerva goalkeeper Rakshit Dagar to score from a Lalmuanpuia cross. But three was no denying Bali who had scored just four minutes earlier when William Opoku’s cheeky back-heel from an Ambedkar pass, found the forward lurking in the box.
Mohun Bagan held to goalless draw
Chennai: Mohun Bagan’s title hopes seems well over after another goalless stalemate against 10-men Chennai City at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Defender Edwin Vanaspaul already on a yellow by then, was send off in the 84th minute for showing dissent after Tarif Akhand fouled Dipanada Dicka inside the box and the referee pointed to the spot.
New foreign import Akram Moghrabi stood up but missed because substitute goalkeeper Kabir Thaufiq, in the field as Uros Poljanec was out injured guessed right.
Azharuddin Mallick had missed a sitter as early as the fourth minute, blasting over after Dicka found him unmarked inside the eight yard box.