Chandigarh, Dec 19 (IANS) Kolkata giants and former champions Mohun Bagan rode on a classy strike by Henry Kisekka late in the second half to get three points against defending champions Minerva Punjab FC at the Tau Devi Lal stadium in Panchkula, near here.
Kisekka struck in the 79th minute as Mohun Bagan displayed amazing resilience to shrug off a defeat to arch-rivals East Bengal just 70 hours earlier, dominate proceedings and pull off an important away win.
The win moves them up to sixth on the table with 12 points from eight games, while Minerva are now seventh with the same number of points from nine games played.
The champions made a couple of changes to their starting line-up bringing in Arshdeep under the bar in place of Bhaskar Roy who had played their last game against Chennai City. Thoiba Singh also sat out in a midfield swap with Jagpreet.
Mohun Bagan brought in Gurjinder at centre-back to replace Nigerian Eze Kinglsey who was sent off in the last game against East Bengal.
The first half was scratchy at best but Bagan were clearly on the ascendent with Japanese Yuta Kinowaki in the defensive midfield position and Ugandan forward Henry Kisekka in particular, having an excellent first 45 minutes. Yuta intercepted most of the second balls in his half and Kisekka, playing from the left, was busy creating most of the chances.
Cameroonian striker Dipanda Dicka hit the Minerva upright as early as the second minute of the game after he cut in between two defenders inside the box to stab the ball past Arshdeep. Dicka did manage to find the net as well after a lovely give-and-go with Kisekka, which saw him beat Arshdeep. But the Ugandan had already been called out by the linesman for offside.
Five minutes before the half-time whistle, Egyptian midfielder Omar El Hussieny hit the underside of the bar from a wonderfully taken free-kick. But the ball bounced off the line to be cleared by the Minerva defence. In between, both Kisekka and Dicka had muffed at least three chances between them.
Minerva did not have a single shot on goal in the first half.
Bagan began the second half just as they had the first. Omar was beginning to have more impact on the game and everytime the ball went to Kisekka, he looked threatening.
But it was Dicka again with the early chance, just two minutes into the half when a wonderfully weighted cross from the right by Arijit Bagui presented an opportunity for a free-header but the Cameroonian failed to connect.
Both coaches rang in the changes. Minerva’s Paul Munster introduced fresh and young legs in Makan Winkle Chothe and Moinuddin in place of Yu Kuboki and Jagpreet for a final push to snatch a winner but could not make much headway.
Bagan coach Sankarlal Chakraborty went for SK Faiaz in place of Azharuddin Mallick, just as he had done in the last game.
It was in the 79th minute that Bagan and Kisekka were finally rewarded for their persistence. Omar threaded in a peach of a through ball, releasing Kisekka inside the Minerva box on the left. To the Ugandan’s credit, he drew his marker further away from the goal and then unleashed a thunderous left-footer from a very narrow angle to beat Arshdeep and bulge the net.
It was a goal worthy of a winner and Bagan held on till the last four minutes of additional time to register a win after three games.