India's Mohun Bagan Super Giant secured the chance for another prolonged continental cup run after they defeated Nepal's Machhindra FC 3-1 in their AFC Cup™ 2023/24 Preliminary Stage 2 match at Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday.
Last season's Inter-Zone semi-finalists Mohun Bagan Super Giant had Anwar Ali's aerial prowess to thank as the defender grabbed a brace to send his side through to the Playoff next week against Bangladesh's Abahani Dhaka Limited for a spot in the South Zone group stage.
The home side did most of the early running and threatened to open the scoring through new signing Sahal Abdul Samad, who twice forced the Machhindra keeper into making saves in the 11th and 26th minutes.
Just when the match looked like it would head into the break level on proceedings, Mohun Bagan Super Giant found the breakthrough in the 38th minute from a set-piece routine, Anwar rising highest to nod in Hugo Boumous’s corner kick.
Four minutes into the second half, Bishal produced a double save from Sahal and then Jason Cummings, another player making his Mohun Bagan Super Giant's sdebut, as the Kolkata juggernaut continued to pile on the pressure.
The Australian forward was not to be denied in the 59th minute, accurately finishing off a move that doubled Mohun Bagan Super Giant's lead.
Machhindra pulled one back through Pierre Jean Oloumou in the 78th minute, after he was afforded a second go at a free-kick to beat the underused Vishal Kaith in the home side’s goal.
The hosts, however, would regain their two-goal lead in the 85th minute courtesy of another Anwar header, this time the delivery coming from substitute Dimitrios Petratos to seal safe passage into the next stage.