By Kaushik Paul

KOLKATA: Mohun Bagan punched their ticket to the 2017 AFC Cup Group Stage on Tuesday after claiming 5-2 Play-off aggregate victory over Club Valencia following a 4-1 win in the second leg at Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in Kolkata.

Jeje Lalpekhlua gave Mohun Bagan an early lead. The hosts doubled their advantage just before the interval when Hussain Nihan scored an own goal. Godfrey Omodu West halved the deficit for the Maldivian side in the 52nd minute. Jeje restored the host’s two-goal cushion in the 81st minute. Sony Norde rounded off the scoring four minutes from full time to seal a comprehensive victory.

Going into the game, Mohun Bagan made quite a few changes to the side that played a 1-1 draw in Male last week as Debjit Majumdar, Anas Edathodika, Jeje and Sarthak Golui came at the expenses of Shilton Paul, Shouvik Ghosh, Darryl Duffy and Reynier Fernandez respectively.

Mohun Bagan started positively and surged ahead in the second minute itself when Jeje slotted a spot-kick home to score his first goal in the campaign. The penalty was awarded to the hosts following a handball by Valencia defender Hisam Saleem inside the box.

Having taken the lead, Mohun Bagan continued to push ahead and created a couple more close chances. In the 9th minute, Sony, who was making a comeback from a long injury layoff, set up Eduardo Fereirra on the right, however the Equatorial Guinea international failed to keep his effort on target.

Valencia, on the other hand, sat back and looked to hit back on the counter but could not do much to trouble the Mohun Bagan defence.

Mohun Bagan went close once again in the 20th minute. This time Sony ran down through the left flank and crossed it for Balwant Singh whose half hearted effort was easily blocked by Valencia defender Kaka Chinda.

Balwant again missed a sitter around the half hour mark. A low cross from Prabir Das found Balwant with plenty of time and space but to everyone’s surprise the striker only ended up picking the goalkeeper.

After continuous pressure, Mohun Bagan finally extended their lead in the dying minutes of the half when Nihan scored an own goal in his attempt to clear Jeje’s powerful right footer in the 44th minute. Mohun Bagan took their two goal advantage into the breather.

The second session began with some end to end action with both sides attacking frequently. While Mohun Bagan went close through Sony and Jeje on multiple occasions, the visitors too had a couple of chances of their own but were denied by the home side’s defence.

However, seven minutes into the session Valencia got some reward through their prolific striker Godfrey West Omodu whose powefull right footer from outside the box hit the back of the net. Debjit tried his very best throwing his body in the air but could not do much.

The goal gave Club Valencia a much needed confidence boost and they increased their pressure up front looking for the equalizer which could have take them into the group stages of the competition. Despite creating numerous scoring opportunities it was lack of finishing that let them down.

However, Jeje and Sony made sure there were no further hiccups as they scored respectively in the 81st and 86th minute to ensure a comfortable 4-1 victory.

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