A 10-man Mohun Bagan rode on a Balwant Singh goal to overcome a resolute Churchill Brothers 1-0 in an I-League football match at the Barasat Stadium on Sunday.
After some half-chances, striker Balwant Singh, who made a comeback from injury after nine long months, gave Bagan the lead with a 28th minute header.
It was Japanese Katsumi Yusa’s vision as he dissected the Churchill defence to find Pritam Kotal, who on his overlapping run on the right flank put in a precise cross for fit-again Balwant to head home.
But the hosts had a fine chance in the 24th minute to take a lead when Daryl Duffy was denied by keeper Priyant Singh, who produced a diving save on the edge of the box. Kean Lewis had a chance to score on the rebound, but his shot went straight to the keeper.
Just when things were going according to plan for Sanjay Sen, the home side were reduced to 10 players as Subhashish Bose picked up a second yellow card in the 63rd minute for his foul on Seriton Fernandes. The U-22 player was booked in the 55th minute for a push on Churchill captain Keenan Almeida near the touchline.
After Bagan went down to 10-men, Churchill intensified their search for an equaliser. And the Goan side wasted a golden opportunity to make it 1-1 in the 70th minute when Seriton went past Prabir Das and had only Debjit Majumder to beat, but his shot went off the mark.
In the 93rd minute, Angelo Colaco came close to earn a draw for the visitors, but his swerving shot hit the crossbar, much to the relief of the home crowd.
In the end, despite Churchill going all guns blazing in the final 20 minutes of the game, 10-man Bagan held their nerves to earn all three points and start the season on a winning note.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Mumbai FC started their campaign with a win as they edged DSK Shivajians 1-0 in a tight encounter at the Cooperage Ground in Mumbai.
Thoi Singh, who signed for Mumbai from last season’s champions Bengaluru FC, scored a superb goal in the 21st minute to give Santosh Kashyap’s his first win as Mumbai boss.
In search of an equaliser, DSK coach Dave Rogers brought on Sumeet Passi and Jerry Lalrinzuala to add impetus to the attack. But the visitors failed to find the back of the net as Mumbai prevailed in the Maharashtra derby.
Newbies Chennai City FC and Minerva Punjab FC played out a goalless draw at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai.
Chennai City's keeper Karanjit Singh was the hero, keeping out several of Minerva's attempts. But it was Chennai City who came closest to finding the back of the net and will regret their missed chances as they settled for a point.
On Saturday, defending champions Bengaluru FC produced an efficient performance to trounce Shillong Lajong 3-0 in their I-League opener at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Saturday.
It was a night to remember for Udanta Singh, who scored a brace after returning from an eight-week injury layoff. Debutant left back Sena Ralte scored a 30-yard pile-driver to ensure all three points for Albert Roca’s side.