India I League

Hero I-league: Dicka’s brace powers Mohun Bagan to victory against Indian Arrows

Cameroonian striker Dipanda Dicka, the top scorer of the last two editions of Hero I-League, opened his account with a brace of goals against the Indian Arrows, as Kolkata giants and former champions Mohun Bagan registered their first win of this year’s edition at Cuttack’s Barabati stadium on Saturday.

Dicka’s two first-half strikes, the second off a penalty, pulled Bagan up to the third spot in the league standings with five points from three games. The Arrows suffered their second loss and remain on three points, courtesy their win against Shillong Lajong at the same venue.

Floyd Pinto, the Arrows coach began with an unchanged eleven while Sankarlal Chakraborty of Mohun Bagan brought in Shilton Paul in goal in place of Sankar Roy.

The Arrows strategy was clearly to sit back and defend as Bagan not only dominated possession but all the goal scoring chances of the first half as well. As early as the second minute, from an Arijit Bagui floater, Ugandan striker Henry Kisseka found himself in the clear inside the Arrows box but hit wide with only the keeper to beat.

Then Dicka, in the seventh minute, got a free header from an Omar Elhusseiney cross from the left but headed straight to Prabhsukan Gill in the Arrows goal.

Kisseka missed a couple of chances but the goal was coming for Bagan and it arrived in the 30th minute. Kisseka got hold of the ball outside the Arrows box on the right and bulldozed through three defenders to cross across and past  Gill for Dicka, to score with a diving header.

The Arrows began to show some enterprises five minutes from the end of the first half and a Boris Singh run was eye-catching.

However, just before the end of the half, Pintu Mahata, who had switched flanks, cut in from the left and his cross, caught the outstretched hand of a defender and referee Gupta pointed to the penalty spot. Dicka slotted in for his and Bagan’s second of the game to give them the required cushion going into the break.

Floyd Pinto brought in Khumanthem Meetei in the second half in midfield in place of right back Aimol in a clear change of tactics intended to bring in more attacking impetus. Rahul KP, who continues to impress with every outing was at the heart of this impetus but the Bagan defence led by Nigerian Eze Kingsley held the fort.

Among the best chances for Bagan in the second half was in the 68th minute when from another Arijit Bagui cross from the right flank, Dicka rose to connect with a perfect header but the goal-bound ball was brilliantly tipped over the bar by Gill.

As the game neared its end, Pinto brought in Abhijit Sarkar to bolster the strike force and the Arrows did create some flutter in the Bagan defence to finish strong, but the Kolkata side were through.

Bagan’s Haitian star Sony Norde, on his comeback post a long injury lay-off was again brought into the game, this time in the 65th minute and got his second successive game time which would hold them in good stead in tougher away assignments coming up.