Mohun Bagan moved a step closer to the AFC Cup main draw with a crucial 2-1 away win against Colombo FC in the first leg of the qualifier at the Colombo Racecourse Stadium in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Tuesday.
Kean Lewis put Bagan in front the 13th minute with a fine header, but the hosts equalized through Afeez Olofin in the 30th minute. Sehnaj Singh scored the crucial second for Bagan in the 71st minute, getting on the end of Shouvik Ghosh's cross from the left. Bagan now take a vital one-goal advantage into the second leg, which will take place at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in Kolkata on February 7.
The winner of the preliminary round will feature in another two-leg play-off before qualifying for the main AFC Cup, the continent's second-tier club competition. Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen made a few changes with Shilton Paul starting in goal, and Prabir Das and Kean Lewis on either wing. Sehnaj Singh partnered Souvik Chakraborti in midfield while Daryl Duffy was the solitary striker up front with Katsumi Yusa operating behind.
Bagan looked dangerous in the opening minutes with Yusa inches away from a Prabir Das cross and Pritam Kotal finding himself in plenty of space in the opposition box after a hopeful long ball, only to be given off-side.
Mohun Bagan's opening goal came from a mix-up between Colombo defenders Chameera and Opayemi, which saw Duffy run clear down the right before cleverly sliding in a through ball towards Prabir, who was running infield. Prabir, in turn, sent the ball towards the far post and Lewis met it with a diving header, giving Colombo goalkeeper Mohammed Imran no chance.
In the 20th minute, Yusa had another chance to find the net but Imran got a fingertip to it after Pritam had found him with a perfect delivery from the right.
Colombo also created a number of chances, with Dilan and Afeez often finding spaces inside the Bagan box. Opayemi was unlucky to see his header go wide off a corner before Afeez finally struck at the half hour mark.
After Mohun Bagan gave away the ball in midfield, Afeez stormed down the right flank and took a shot from an acute angle, which beat Shilton and put the hosts level.
Five minutes later, Prabir headed wide from an unmarked position inside the box after Kotal had put him on the clear.
Bagan grew in confidence in second half, but both Duffy and Jeje missed presentable chances.
In the 70th minute, Shouvik Ghosh's cross into the box was left by Jeje for the onrushing Sehnaj, whose powerful shot restored Bagan's lead.
Mohun Bagan had reached the last 16 stage of the AFC Cup last year, losing 1-2 in extra-time to Singapore's Tampines Rovers.
Colombo FC are the first Sri Lankan club to take part in the AFC Cup play-offs.