AIFF Media Team
KOLKATA: A packed Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan bounced with joy at the end of a night which started in a disastrous manner, as the Mariners fought back from a goal down to beat Abahani Dhaka 3-1 in the AFC Cup 2023-24 Playoff, thus qualifying for the group stage.
The Kolkata giants seemed a step slower than their opponents from Bangladesh who looked to attack with pace in the early stages of the game. Abahani Dhaka were gifted the opening goal in the 17th minute when Mohun Bagan SG goalkeeper Vishal Kaith fumbled a seemingly aimless cross and was punished by Cornelius Stewart, who was easily the liveliest player on the pitch in the opening minutes.
The Green and Maroons showed immense character and looked like a completely different team right after conceding as they started to string together some decent attacks of their own. Juan Ferrando’s side equalised in the 37th minute when Liston Colaco was fouled in the box as he tried to reach the rebound of a Hugo Boumous shot. Australian signing Jason Cummings grabbed his second goal for the club with a well-placed penalty and levelled the score.
The Mariners did not look back and were in complete control for the remainder of the match, starting the second half with quick and accurate passes through the midfield. Cummings played Boumous through in the 58th minute who drilled the ball hard across the face of goal, and Abahani Dhaka defender Milad Soleimani deflected it into the back of his own net in an attempt to clear.
Less than two minutes later, Mohun Bagan Super Giant doubled their lead through a quickly-taken corner which saw Colaco and Boumous combine for a neat one-two before the Goan winger squeezed the ball in from the touchline leading to a simple finish for Albanian forward Armando Sadiku.
Substitutes Manvir Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan and Kiyan Nasiri came close to extending the lead but the game ended 3-1 in favour of the Mariners.
Tuesday's comeback win sees Mohun Bagan Super Giant through to the AFC Cup 2023-24 group stage joining Odisha FC, Bashundhara Kings and Maziya S&RC in the south zone group.