Kolkata: Bengal football giants Mohun Bagan underlined their title credentials with a comfortable 3-0 win over Bengaluru FC in a rescheduled I-League encounter at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium here on Saturday.
Yusa Katsumi (14th, 53rd minute) and Darryl Duffy (25th) got on the scoresheet for the hosts, who avenged their 1-2 AFC Cup defeat to the same opponents last month at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.
Courtesy the win, Bagan with 26 points moved to within one point of East Bengal (27) with a game in hand. The arch-rivals clash in the Kolkata Derby on April 9.
Bengaluru, on the other hand, were condemned to their fourth loss of the campaign. They stay fifth with 18 points from 14 matches.
In the fourth minute, Bagan's star Haitian recruit Sony Norde outpaced Sandesh Jhinghan and Udanta Singh to cross inside the area from the byline but Amrinder Singh reacted fastest to avert the danger.
Two minutes later, Kotal found Duffy but the Scottish striker could not keep it on target despite being unmarked.
It was all Bagan in the initial exchanges as Katsumi ruffled the back of the net soon after but was ruled offside.
The Japanese playmaker could not be denied the next time he took aim though. Finding himself in some space on the edge of the box from a Norde ball, the former ONGC midfielder beat Amrinder Singh who got his fingertips to the ball but could not keep it out.
Before Bengaluru could even take a swipe at the goal, the home side doubled their tally. Norde was in the thick of things again, floating in an inch-perfect free kick from near the centre for Duffy to nod in from close to bring up his seventh goal of the campaign. At halftime, Bagan led 2-0.
Bagan increased their lead in the second half when Norde's brilliant dribbling from his own half saw Katsumi double his tally with an angular effort at the back post which beat Amrinder comprehensively.
Bengaluru substitute Mandar Rao Desai's header was deflected onto the post by Debjit Mazumdar but that was the best the defending champions could muster in an otherwise poor display by the two time league winners.