Odafa Onyeka Okolie weaved his magic on his I-League debut for Mohun Bagan, scoring a hat-trick, as the Kolkata giants thrashed Pailan Indian Arrows 3-1 at the flood-lit Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Sunday.
Lzlrozama Fenai (8th minute) put Indian Arrows ahead with an outstanding long ball from the right as the Maidan giants found themselves on the backfoot early in the game. But the former Churchill Brothers forward, who was the biggest signing this season, lived up to his reputation, firing in three goals -- in the 66th, 72nd and 91st minutes - to earn full points for Mohun Bagan in their opening round.
It was indeed a memorable day for the Nigerian striker as he wore the captain's armband in the absence of regular skipper Jose Ramirez Barreto. The leading scorer of the I-League, Odafa had a quiet first-half as the All India Football Federation's developmental side put Mohun Bagan under tremendous pressure in the first 45 minutes.
Backed by a sizeable crowd, Indian Arrows, who shifted base to Kolkata this season, impressed with their defence and goalkeper Naveen Kumar was at his resolute best under the bar.
The best moment for the up-and-coming side was in the 12th minute, when Fenai's long ball from the left touch line hit the post before entering the goal, Bagan custodian Sangram Mukherjee failing to judge the flight of the ball.
Indian Arrows held on to the lead in the first half with a resolute defence and fine goalkeeping by Naveen Kumar, while Mohun Bagan lacked creativity in midfield, banking solely on Odafa. Bagan's another star recruit, Sunil Chhetri, did not make his presence felt, while Manish Mathani had a fine chance in the first-half when his shot beat the goalkeeper but missed the target.
Odafa came close to scoring in the 37th minute but Indian Arrows goalkeeper Naveen thwarted the attempt.
It was Hudson Lima Silva who was instrumental in getting the equaliser; the Brazilian supplied the ball with a delicate cross from the left and Odafa notched his first goal in the fifth edition of the I-League in the green and maroon jersey.
The cross was just accurate, below waist high, and Odafa gave the decisive touch to bring relief and joy to the boisterous Mohun Bagan supporters.
In the space of six minutes, Odafa was at it again, bringing up his brace, as he utilised an Ashim Biswas cross to the far post before scoring through a half volley in his trademark fashion.
The Arrows nearly restored parity in the 88th minute but CS Sabeeth's header was an inch wide.
But there was no looking back for Bagan, and Odafa who scored his hat-trick in style, deceiving three Indian Arrows defenders before getting past the goalkeeper.
Sporting hold Prayag United
Margao: Sporting Clube de Goa recovered from an initial jolt to hold Prayag United of Kolkata to a 2-2 draw.
Prayag United, who had defeated Sporting in Federation Cup earlier, took the lead in the ninth minute through Yusif Yakubu in a nail-biting game at the Nehru stadium, Fatorda.
Sporting scored the equaliser in 33rd minute through a superb header by debutante James Moga, who netted off a cross from Boboi Singh at the end of half-time.
Prayag United retaliated again through Yusif Yakubu in 76th minute. Sporting restored parity in the 84th when Moga again scoring from a header.
Vitorino Fernandes had a golden chance to score in the last minute but failed to get past keeper Abhijit Mondal.