Minerva Punjab FC rode on Bhutanese striker Chencho Gyeltshen’s first-half brace to jump to the top of the table with a 2-1 victory over Mohun Bagan in an I-League encounter at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Wednesday.
Chencho (23rd minute, 30th) wreaked havoc during a spell of uncertainty for the hosts’ defence to help his side continue their dream run and pip East Bengal to the top of the tree by one point and with a game in hand.
Mohun Bagan’s Liberian attacking midfielder Ansumana Kromah missed a penalty in the first essay.
For the home team, Nigerian centre-back Kingsley Eze (90+4) scored a peach of a goal from 40 yards out before their new-signing Cameron Watson blew away a glorious chance to equalise in second-half stoppage time.
The Ludhiana-based side now have 19 points from eight games while second-placed East Bengal are on 18 points after playing nine matches.
Mohun Bagan, meanwhile, stay in fifth position with 13 points from nine games.
The Mariners got off to a positive start winning three corners in the first nine minutes. But as the half wore on, the visitors settled in and turned the tables on the hosts in style.
In the 16th minute, Kamalpreet Singh was teed up by Kassim Aidara but the latter dragged his effort wide.
Minutes later, Chencho scored, making the most of the time he was afforded on the ball to first dodge a defender and then shoot on the turn.
The strike took a slight deflection off a Arijit Bagui who initially lost the ball to the Bhutanese striker with goalkeeper Shibinraj Kunniyil also at fault, coming out of his line needlessly.
Chencho should have doubled the lead moments later, after being one on one with keeper but his shot was saved.
The highly-rated forward did not have to rue his miss for too long though, scoring again at the half-hour mark, this time William Asiedu splitting open the sleepy rival defence with relative ease to find Chencho who placed the ball at the far post with a calm finish.
Sensing the need for an urgent response, home team coach Shankarlal Chakraborty took off former Bengaluru FC midfielder Beingaichho Beikhokhei forSk.faiaz in the hope of a goal.
The Green and Maroons came close to pulling one back when their Cameroonian striker Dipanda Dicka was felled inside the box by visiting keeper Rakshit Dagar to concede a penalty. Kromah stepped up to take the spot kick but a tame effort saw Dagar pull off an easy save.
Two minutes to half time, Asiedu back-heeled neatly for Kamalpreet who once again put his attempt wide of target.
A frenetic first half ended on a sour note when experienced Mohun Bagan defender Kinshuk Debnath had an ugly altercation with Asiedu.
In the second half, substitute Naro Hari Shrestha, who replaced the ineffective Kromah in the 77th minute, came close on two occasions while Dicka also had a chance but was off target.