ATK Mohun Bagan executed their manager’s orders to perfection against Blasters to start on a winning note…

ATK Mohun Bagan‘s performance against Kerala Blasters carried the hallmark of a typical Antonio Habas side. They sat deep, relied on counter-attack, made the most of an error by the opposition to get the goal and then stifled Kibu Vicuna’s men in the attacking third for the remaining 23-odd-minutes to seal the three points. 

It was a battle of two contrasting philosophies. Vicuna likes to dominate possession, whereas Habas believes in a more pragmatic approach. The two-time ISL (Indian Super League) winning coach laid his customary trap and his opposite number walked into it.

Blasters’ were leading the charge in the first half and even started the second half on a brighter note. Bagan sat patiently at the back and absorbed pressure. With just Edu Garcia and Roy Krishna upfront, Bagan made two lines of four while defending and Blasters could not find a way to break the resistance. This might have given the Blasters think-tank a false sense of control, which they desperately long for. 

The Men in Yellow were under the illusion that they were dictating the proceedings, however, it was the Mariners who were creating meaningful goalscoring opportunities. And with a prolific goalscorer like Roy Krishna leading the lines, it was a matter of when, not if. 

Even though the Fijian was looking a bit rusty in the opening half as he failed to capitalise on a couple of gilt-edged opportunities, he made up for his errors in the second half. A striker of his pedigree will get at least one on target which would bulge the net and the miscommunication between Vincente Gomez and Sergio Cidoncha gifted him the perfect opportunity to get off the mark for this season. He took five attempts to score the eventual winner which shows that he needs more competitive action to fire on all cylinders. 

In fact, the entire team needs more minutes to get in the groove as they gave away possession cheaply on a few occasions and at times were late into tackles. The booking of Pronay Halder and Edu Garcia are a testament to this.

The Green and Maroon brigade have a week in hand before the Kolkata derby against East Bengal and it remains to be seen what Habas has in store for Robbie Fowler’s team. If the British manager expects that Bagan would adopt the same style against them, then there are chances that he might get caught on the wrong foot. 

Previously, Habas has shown that he can be flexible with his tactics and with the quality of players at his disposal, it would not be surprising if they take the game to East Bengal. Against Bengaluru FC in the second leg of the semi-final, they thew caution into the wind and overturned a 2-0 deficit to beat the Blues at the Salt Lake.

If the attacking trio of Garcia, Krishna and David Williams get a start next Friday, football aficionados should be in for a treat. 

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