Group G winners Mohun Bagan AC suffered a 0-3 home defeat against Hongkong’s South China in a Matchday Six tie at the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium in Guwahati to secure second place and advance to the AFC Cup Round of 16.
Having lost their opening three games, South China completed an extraordinary turnaround by chalking up three straight victories with the most recent coming at Indira Gandhi Stadium and beginning with Law Hiu Chung’s opener on 19 minutes. Just six minutes later Australian Ryan Griffiths had doubled the lead before Mahama Awal ended the scoring, and effectively the tie, just after the half hour mark.
“I am really proud of how my boys played and we managed to qualify to the next round. All credit to the boys,” said South China coach Ricardo Rambo.
“I knew that if we played well, we had every chance to win and we did so.
“I look forward to the next round and if we play with the same intensity, we can go even further.”
With South China needing a win to qualify, their intent was obvious as they started with purpose. Luiz Carlos had three half chances within the first ten minutes of the match itself but he failed to get on the scoresheet.
Griffiths had also set up midfielder Law after chesting the ball down but his shot from inside the area struck the outside of the post. However the visitors did not have to wait long as Awal created the opener on the 19th minute as made a darting run down the right before putting an inviting cross across the face of the goal and Law was on hand to bundle home.
It got even better for the away side shortly after as Griffiths made it 2-0. Law’s corner fell to the Australian who stabbed the ball in from close range. And with 13 minutes of the first half remaining South China had their third after Awal’s shot took a deflection off Abhishek Das giving Arnab Das Sarma no chance as the ball looped into the back of the net.
With Mohun Bagan continuing to struggle to get a grip on the game, the visitors remained in the ascendancy as Luiz Carlos hit the woodwork at the stroke of half time.
The home team finally mustered up a meaningful chance in the second half when Lalkamal Bhowmick’s shot was saved by Tsang Man Fai after a good one two between Subash Singh and Kean Lewis. Arnab was alert in the 64th minute as he kept out Griffiths’ shot after he beat the offside trap following a Luiz Carlos’ lofted through ball.
Lewis had two chances at the death to reclaim some pride for Mohun Bagan but failed on both opportunities. The first, a volley was kept out by a diving Tsang in goal while the second saw him set up by Subash but he failed to keep it on target.
The result sees South China qualify as the runners-up from the group, a point ahead of Myanmar’s Yangon United, while Mohun Bagan’s unbeaten run comes to an end.
Mohun Bagan will host Singapore’s Tampines Rovers in the next round while South China travel away to Ceres La Salle of the Philippines.
“As I said we wanted to win before the match but South China played better and so they came out with the result and you could see that they were more hungry for it too. And as I said it would be a tough match,” said Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen.
“Obviously I am disappointed that we lost but this is football. We look forward to play Tampines Rovers in the next round and I think that will be the actual test.”
by AFC Media