Coimbatore: Table-toppers Mohun Bagan beat hosts and defending champions Chennai City FC in an energy-sapping and open encounter which saw as many as five goals at the Nehru Stadium in Coimbatore on Friday evening, to bag three more points.
A brace from Papa Babacar Diawara and a goal from Spaniard Fran Gonzales, his sixth overall in the league, were enough to thwart an inspired Chennai come-back in the second half, with strikes from substitute N Vijay and Jishnu Balakrishnan in the space of four minutes.
Chennai had not lost to Bagan in the previous edition where they emerged champions, but this year's form was clearly in favour of the visitors going into the game.
Bagan were off the blocks in a flash getting three corners within first five minutes of the game but all three headers from Diawara went off-target.
Then in the space of two minutes, two headers went in of two corners. First Diawara struck in the 28th and a minute later, Fran Gonzalez rose above all to nail another past Chennai keeper Nauzet Santana.
Chennai had the lion's share of possession throughout the game and were also creating their own set of chances but without luck.
They had three gilt-edged chances in the dying minutes of the first-half but Fito Miranda hit the crossbar. Their Japanese winger Katsumi Yusa, a former Mariner, shot one wide from close after beating the keeper and finally, new Swiss recruit Jan Muzangu's blast from close to Sankar Roy hit the side-netting.
Bagan extended their lead as soon as the second half got underway to pile further pressure on the hosts. Beitia spotted the run of young winger Nongdamba Naorem from a free-kick inside the Bagan half. Naorem made his way inside the box and then squared to an unmarked Diawara who made no mistake in slotting it past Santana in the 49th minute.
The game turned on its head when in the 65th minute Vijay, who was thrown into the fray a few minutes before, let go a stunning pile-driver from outside the box to bulge the Bagan net. Four minutes later, Jishnu Balakrishnan took a go from well outside the box on the right and to Sankar's dismay, the ball deflected of Dhanachandra Singh to wrong-foot him and go in.
With both teams pressing, Bagan for the insurance goal and Chennai for an equaliser, the game ebbed and flowed but Bagan had the better chances in the end equation.
VP Suhair missed a one-on-one chance with only the keeper to beat having mistimed his shot. Beitia's 73rd-minute curling free-kick from outside of the box was parried away by Santana to keep the scoreline unchanged.
Mohun Bagan managed to cling on to their 1-goal lead and now have 23 points from 10 games, six points ahead of second-placed Punjab FC. With their fourth loss in eight games, Chennai remain stranded in ninth position on the table.