Mohun Bagan advanced to the semifinals of the 35th Federation Cup when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Salgaocar SC in the last Group C League match of the 35th Federation Cup at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Cochin on Monday (January 21).
Courtesy the result, Bagan finished as Group C toppers with 7 points from three matches and will now play Churchill Brothers in the semifinal on Thursday (January 23).
Bagan’s goal came in the 58th minute. Odafa Okolie sidestepped the rival midfield and essayed a long ball for Christopher. Christopher chased, gathered it and as he tried to get make his way through, Augustin Fernandes brought him down. Odafa converted from the spot.
If that came from the spot, Salgaocar’s equaliser came from nowhere. Bikash Jairu perfect left-footer from around 35 yards beat Bagan Goalkeeper Shilton Paul hands down to bulge the net.
Earlier, Bagan’s first inroad happened in the 17th minute. Yusa Katsumi tried to find Odafa in the clear but even as the latter tried to latch onto the pass, an alert Salgaocar defence thwarted him. The resultant corner was gathered by a leaping Salgaocar Goalkeeper Karanjit Singh.
On the other side, Karanjit’s rival compatriot Shilton Paul came to his Team’s rescue in the 31st minute. Shilton dived to his left to palm off Francis Fernandes’ header. Francis had timed his jump to perfection in an effort to direct Bikash Jairu cross from the right.
In the 35th minute, Bagan were awarded a free-kick from outside the 18-yard box. But Odafa’s curler went wide.
Possibly Bagan’s best chance in the first half came in the 41st minute. Christopher gathered a ball and entered the rival box but his placement agonisingly went wide.
Changing over, Salgaocar survived a scare in the 48th minute. Substitute Ram Malik broke down the right and tried to find Odafa in the box. The Salgaocar defence panicked and Rocus Lamare in an effort to clear, almost scored an own goal – his clearance rebounding off the Salgaocar post.
The spring in Ram’s steps from the moment he came on was unmistakable. On a couple of occasions, he went past Rahul Kumar on the left flank. But the Salgaocar defence regrouped in time.
Odafa could have added one more to the tally but Nicolau Colaco’s goalline save frustrated them in the 64th minute.
Ten minutes later, Bagan Coach Karim Bencherifa replaced Odafa with Sathyan Sabeeth. Odafa was seen coming out limping.
Thereafter, Jairu did equalise for Salgaocar but it came a bit too late.