Vasco (Goa): India international Jeje Lalpekhlua's 85th-minute strike proved to be decisive as Mohun Bagan edged past Salgaocar 3-2 in the first leg of their Federation Cup quarter-final football encounter at the Tilak Maidan stadium here on Monday.
For Mohun Bagan, Jeje (1, 85) scored a brace while the other goal was netted in by Abhishek Das (77). Martin Scott (26) and Calvin Mbarga (31) got on the score sheet for the home side.
At half-time, Mohun Bagan were 1-2 down but fought back valiantly to seal the victory.
It was a lively start to the game as Jeje put the record 13-time champions ahead in the very first minute heading in a delightful cross from Subhash Singh.
Jolted, Salgaocar tried to arrange their defence properly. Once they settled down they pressed upfront in numbers.
At the 16th minute, the hosts had their first big chance but Darryl Duffy's shot was somehow cleared off the line by Kingshuk Debnath.
Ten minutes later Salgaocar finally broke through as Scottish midfielder Scott equalised for the Goan outfit. The 30-year-old after latching onto a pass, made room for himself and smashed it past goalkeeper Debjit Majumder from 24 yards.
A few minutes later Cameroonian striker Mbarga gave Salgaocar the lead with a strong header. The forward outjumped rival defenders to meet Duffy’s cross who had to wriggle his way through to plant the ball in.
Salgaocar started on a strong note after the restart and Debjit had to pull off a save against Mbarga to keep Mohun Bagan in the game.
At the other end defender Pradip Das tried to level the score by steering his header into the net but his attempt fizzed past the post. Salgaocar custodian Karanjit Singh then denied Jeje from close range.
With time running out for the visitors coach Sanjoy Sen replaced Subhash with Abhishek and he was rewarded instantly. Within seconds of coming on, Abhishek had the easiest of chances to tap a Katsumi Yusa cross in and the youngster obliged gleefully.
The comeback was completed by Jeje, who five minutes from time chested down a Luis Sambrosa ball and smashed it passed Karanjit.
Mohun Bagan then held onto the one-goal lead to ensure all three points.
Mohun Bagan will host the second leg match in Kolkata on May 5.