Former champions Mohun Bagan rode on a Balwant Singh first-half strike and held their nerves after being reduced to 10 men to secure a hard-fought 1-0 win over Churchill Brothers in their 10th I-League opener in Barasat on Sunday.
After some half-hearted attempts, Mohun Bagan's 'lucky charm' Balwant gave them the lead with his 28th minute header against the only Goan team in the league.
Making a comeback after nine months, the fit-again Balwant found himself unmarked as he capitalised on Pritam Kotal's precise cross from the right flank before heading the ball into the net.
Down to 10 men in the second-half, the threat of conceding remained till the last minute with some swift freekicks, but Mohun Bagan returned lucky to earn full three points in their opening match.
The 2015 champions were reduced to 10 players in the 64th minute after a second yellow to Subhasish Bose for his foul on Seriton Fernandes.
Thoi strike helps MFC down Shivajians in 'Maha' Derby
A first-half goal by striker Khangebam Thoi Singh powered Mumbai FC, without any foreigners in their ranks, to a 1-0 win over Pune's DSK Shivajians in the first round Maharashtra I-League derby in Mumbai on Sunday.
Latching on to a faulty clearance off a floated ball into the area in the 21st minute of play, Thoi booted the ball on the half-volley to hit the underside of the bar after beating the outstretched arms of Shivajians custodian Soram Poirem Angaba and bounced in, much to the delight of the home crowd supporters at the Cooperage Stadium.
Thoi was one of two strikers employed by MFC head coach Santosh Kashyap and he reposed the faith.