Courtesy : Ray Sportz

They say, the beginning to every work paves the way for how that work will progress. In Bengali culture, it's a good thing to eat something sweet before the start of a new work, a new journey. So it was no surprise when 2 of India's sweetest sides, from the two contrasting yet proud birthplaces of the famous "Rosogolla" met for their first match in this year's AFC Cup. The match however, was far from sweet.

Before we begin the review, a quick note of appreciation for the fans. The Utras of Mohun Bagan made their presence felt. The travelling fans made the stadium their own, with pyros and tifos decorating the Kalinga Stadium. The fans came in numbers, despite it being a working day. Just the last day, Mumbai City FC were criticized online for their lack of supporters in their opening match of this year's AFC Champion's League. Well, this is what history and tradition brings, generations of fans who are willing to follow the team anywhere, to farthest corner of the earth. This is what real love is.

Courtesy : MDX Ultras

Coming to the match, Mohun Bagan started with a back three of Anwar, Yuste and Hamill. Thapa, Sahal and Hugo started in the midfield with Subhasish and Manvir on the wings. Upfront were the two strikers Sadiku and Dimi Petratos.

Prior to this match, since Mohun Bagan's entry to the ISL, they had never ever beaten Sergio Lobera. This was a curse the team were eager to break. Juan Ferrando, the man who replaced Lobera at Goa, the one who was shouldered with the big dreams and aspirations of the Mohun Bagan fans and management, had an uphill task. And he came out with flying colors.

"Begin as you mean to go" was clearly the message from the coach. The fans have been yearning, at times pleading for some beautiful football from this team. And that is what we saw last match. Right from the get go, we were the better side. One touch passing, great off the ball movement, smooth transitions. The players never looked in hurry. It was a composed yet fast start to begin with, against an Odisha side with aging superstars. Bagan could've taken an early lead in the 6th minute itself, if Manvir's shot was on target. Nevertheless it was a sign of things to come. Bagan dominated possession, their plan was simple. Play with a high line, maintain shape, create overloads up the pitch, pass in between the lines, stretch the play and look for the killer pass. One touch, creative football at it's absolute best.

Odisha though were not the ones to surrender easily. It was a great occasion for a club formed just a few seasons back to play in Asia within such a short time. And they pushed and pushed. Roy Krishna thought he had scored in the 13th minute but the referee rightly ruled it offside. Odisha tried to grow slowly into the game, threading passes in their own half, slowing the tempo of the game. Jahou was especially their main man. Playing in the heart of the midfield, he made some beautiful passes in search of players upfront. The game was beginning to get end to end. Bagan had the high line, but the fear of being hit on the counter was there. Until the turning point of the match came.

43rd minute. Hugo skipped past Senegalese defender Mourtada Fall, who was beaten for pace. Fall put in a diving tackle from behind getting none of the ball. A clear yellow card offense. But him and the Odisha players cried foul play and complained to the referee. The referee had none of it and showed him a second yellow card which resulted in his dismissal. Club captain Jahou was also yellow cared for excess protest.

The game took a turn from here in the second half. Bagan kept the pressure high, but Odisha couldn't bite back, and soon the heavens gate opened. Hugo cut inside and passed onto Thapa who spotted Anwar free on the right. Anwar played in a low cross which ultimately found Sahal who made no mistake. A beautiful team goal, his first goal for the national club of India. Mohun Bagan's boat was up and running. And we never looked back. The next two goals came in quick succesion.

First it was Dimi. Sahal had a shot saved from the edge of the box. The ball rebounded off keeper Amrinder Singh, and Dimi was there to put it in the net from close range. 2-0 Mohun Bagan.

Next up, it was Liston's chance to shine. Liston had just come on and looked quick and sharp. His sharpness was evident in another beautiful team goal. Manvir's brilliant chipped cross found Liston free and he made no mistake in heading the ball past a hapless Amrinder. 3-0 Mohun Bagan.

The icing on the cake came in the 82nd minute. A blunder by the Odisha defense as they failed to clear the ball. Amrinder was caught out of position by Dimi who scored a beautiful chip over Amrinder's head to put the final nail in Odisha's coffin.

Bagan never looked troubled, nor they ever hesitated in their moves. The players were calm, the defense led by our maestro from Spain, Hector Yuste. Anwar keeps on proving why he just might be the signing of the season. Be it right back, be it centre back, this guy is a rock. Hugo was at his razor sharp best, but missed a one versus one which he should have scored. Dimi was the star of the show upfront as usual. Our Indian boys, Sahal and Thapa had a great game, controlling the tempo of the midfield. Wingers Manvir and Subhasish, though initially a bit slow and wasteful, slowly grew into the game and proved why they deserved their place. It should be noted out captain Subhasish Bose was injured before the match and couldn't train for 2 days. Yet he turned up and led the side. That's the hallmark of a true warrior. The best left back in the country. Period.



Vishal had a good game, made some important saves. He didn't have much to do but still, his distribution and match awareness were top notch. Rating- 7/10


No matter how much we praise this guy, it seems less. He had an outstanding game again, showing his versatility as a full back at times. Rating- 8/10


Solid at the back, had a goal disallowed for offside. Will be crucial in the upcoming matches. Rating- 8/10


The foreign signing of the season so far. Calm as a cucumber on the ball, never loosing possession, dominant in the air, and class written all over the long balls and through passes. Rating- 8/10


Captain fantastic. Couldn't train for two days due to injury, yet he dropped a great performance. The best captain we could have ever asked for! Rating- 7/10


Thapa finally found his feet as he was crucial in the midfield. Passes were slick and his positioning were also top notch. Rating- 8/10


A dream come true moment for Sahal as he bagged his first goal in AFC cup for Mohun Bagan. Apart from the goal itself, his overall game was good as well, pressing high when the team needed. Played a role in the second goal too. Rating- 8/10


The Hugo we know, the Hugo all ISL fans know and fear was back yesterday. Simply magical with the ball at his feet. Creator in general. Rating- 8/10


A bit wasteful in the first half, Manvir came back strong in the second half, getting the assist for Sahal & Liston's goal. Rating- 7/10


Sadiku started the match in place of Cummings, but didn't have much effect. His link up play was good, but he clearly needs more time to settle in. Rating- 7/10


The man. The myth. The legend. The eyeball of the Mohun Bagan fans at the moment. Scored two goals, but even apart from the goals his performance was top notch. Our man of the match. 
Rating- 9/10


Scored the third goal, looked pacy, looked sharp. A confident Liston will wreck havoc on any team on any given day. Rating- 7/10


All of them came on as substitutes at certain junctures. Couldn't have much effect towards the end of the match. Rating for all- 6/10


Almost all the moves he pulled out were successful. The Chanakya finally gets the team grooving to his beat. Juan ball in full flow. Rating- 9/10

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