Kolkata, January 10: Minerva Punjab FC handed Mohun Bagan a 2-1 defeat at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Stadium on Wednesday (January 10) to leapfrog East Bengal to the pole position of the I-League.
Punjab now have 19 points, one point more than East Bengal, with a game in hand.
A brace from Chencho Gyeltshen (23rd minute, 30th) was enough for the Ludhiana-based side to get the better of Mohun Bagan. The Mariners had to settle with a consolation goal by Kingsley Eze.
Mohun Bagan coach handed Beingaichho Beikhokhei his first start in this season's I-League, while goalkeeper Shilton Paul had to sit out this match with an injury. He was replaced by Shibinraj Kunniyil.
Minerva Punjab, on the other hand, went for an extra man in defence as Deepak Devrani made his place in the Starting XI, replacing Bali Gagandeep.
Bagan made a fluent start and even had three corner kicks in the first 10 minutes. But they failed to make them count.
Minerva Punjab got the first sniff of goal when skipper Kassim Aidara laid it off for an over-lapping Kamalpreet Singh, whose blasted effort at goal lacked direction to test Shibinraj.
It was the Bhutanese international Chencho who drew the first blood as he first dodged past the defender and fired a bullet-shot towards Shibinraj, who was completely taken by surprise.
Within minutes Minerva Punjab could have doubled their lead, but this time the goalie came out on top in a one-on-one situation with Chencho.
But the Punjab side did not have to wait long for their second goal as the Minerva number 7 produced a world-class finish at the far post after an inch-perfect through was threaded to him by William Asiedu.
Mohun Bagan got the opportunity to peg one back on the 36th minute, but Ansumana Kromah failed to convert from the spot. His feeble attempt was saved comfortably by Rakshit Dagar, who dove low to his left.
Mohun Bagan started the second half with the same tempo, but their reported efforts to breach Minerva's defence were turning futile.
Just after the hour mark, Aser Dipanda Dicka pulled the trigger from point-blank range after Kromah played it to him, but his effort was directed straight towards Dagar.
Minerva continued to maintain shape and their defensive organisation remained a hard nut to crack.
Dipanda got another shot at the target during the injury time, but his effort went across the face of the goal without testing Dagar.
Kingsley Eze scored a screamer at the dying embers of the game, but it was too little too late for the Mariners to get one point as Cameron Watson blew off a chance to draw level minutes later.
Mohun Bagan will go into the famous Kolkata derby on January 21 at the back of this defeat whereas Minerva Punjab will next face Shillong Lajong on January 14.
Source: AIFF Media