Kolkata, April 30 (IANS) A 10-man Mohun Bagan rallied from one goal down to edge past Chennai City FC 2-1 in their final I-League encounter at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium here on Sunday.
Despite the victory, it was heartbreak for the Mohun Bagan players and thousands of their supporters in the jam-packed stands as they lost the title, finishing second behind Aizawl FC.
Before Sunday’s game, Mohun Bagan were on 33 points, three behind Aizawal. To win the title, they needed to beat Chennai City FC and hope that Shillong Lajong FC beat table-toppers Aizawl in the other match.
However, they have now finished their I-League campaign with 36 points just one short of Aizawl, who played out a nervy 1-1 draw to claim their maiden title.
Mohun Bagan had finished second last year also when Bengaluru FC had won the title.
Nanda Kumar (31st minute) gave the visitors a shock lead before Yusa Katsumi (45+2) got the equaliser in the first half added time. Striker Darryl Duffy got the winning goal with a superb finish in the 77th minute.
Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Debjit Majumder was the victim of some dubious officiating when he was sent off for handling the ball outside the penalty box in the 80th minute.
Mohun Bagan made two changes to their starting line-up from their 0-1 defeat at Aizawl FC last Saturday.
Jeje Lalpekhlua and Azharuddin Mallick made way for Balwant Singh and U-22 player Raynier Fernandes.
Chennai ringed in five changes from the 6-1 loss to Churchill Brothers.
A minute’s silence was observed for former East Bengal captain Shanto Mitra who had passed away earlier in the day.
Mohun Bagan’s first chance was wasted by Yusa Katsumi after Sony Norde won a free kick just outside the box. The Japanese playmaker skied his effort to the chagrin of the vociferous green-and-maroon faithfuls in the background.
But soon after, the stadium erupted in joy to the news of Dipanda Dicka giving Lajong the lead in the ninth minute.
Mohun Bagan came close twice in the next few minutes, first Raynier’s header was saved acrobatically by veteran Karanjit Singh, then Norde showed sublime individual skills to dodge past a rival player with the ball in the air but blazed his zipping effort over the bar.
Balwant missed a gilt-edged chance also, firing wide with the goal at his mercy from a Katsumi cross.
With the hosts spurning a raft of chances, Chennai nosed ahead against the run of play. Nanda Kumar had the Mohun Bagan defence at sixes and sevens, prodding the ball into the far corner off a Edwin Sydney set up.
In first half added time, after Balwant had scuffed another golden opportunity, Katsumi equalised.
There were chances galore for Mohun Bagan in the second half as well and Duffy made the most of one of the them. Tempers flared among the hosts when Debjit was given the marching orders for what looked like a harsh decision as the custodian came off his line to catch the ball.