Courtesy: Sahal Abdul Samad/MBSG/ISL Media

We all have had at least one player in our lives whom we knew had the potential to be a world beater, but it just didn't work out for him. If you follow the Indian football jungle, there was no player as much hyped as Sahal Abdul Samad. And why not? Even rivals knew in their hearts, this guy is special, he just needs the push, he just needs to realize his talent, he needs "that stimulus". And what bigger stimulus that moving to the biggest club in India? A shift from the south to the green and maroon has rejuvenated Sahal Abdul Samad. And yesterday was probably his best display ever.

Let's begin from the beginning, the Mariners were excited for the launch of their new away jersey. Several leaks on social media teased about the grandeur of the jersey. And it will be safe to say the management didn't disappoint. It's like they have taken this oath this season to only take the correct decisions. The away jersey pleased the eyes of the Bagan faithful, simplicity dipped with tradition and history, with the dream for a vibrant future, that's what the new jersey stands for.

Vishal Kaith started in goal as usual, while the back three constituted of Anwar, Hamill and Subhasish. The midfield five boasted of Manvir, Hugo, Thapa, Sahal, Liston. Dimi Petratos and Cummings started upfront.


The Marina Arena was ready. Bagan was ready. There was no time to relax. And the intensity was visible from the kickoff itself. The usual kickoff these days consists of playing few one twos before blasting the ball upfront in the hope of creating a goal scoring chance. Not this time though. Bagan's DNA of keeping the ball was visible from the first minute. They didn't blast it wildly, rather played a few passes and moved it forwards. The number of Bagan players in the Chennaiyin box was creating an overload from the get go. Add to that Bagan's ball movement, it was treat to watch. Chennaiyin however, didn't back down and tried to play on the counter. And for the first 20 minutes they did look dangerous, especially with Ninthoi and Conor Shields on the break. Both of them however failed to convert their chances and the score was at nil-nil. Bagan had a few shots on goal too courtesy Anwar and Sahal, but both were not on target.

But then, the magic began to happen. You know, what's the advantage of playing with two number 10s on the pitch? If they can combine, it will be deadlier than the poison of a viper snake. And it was on full display for the first goal. Hugo received the ball on the right flank and rolled it for Sahal who had made the run. Sahal faked his cross first time to ghost his marker and put in a low cross for Dimi who was lurking unmarked in the box. Dimi made no mistake, and in no time it was Bagan in the ascendency, once again. Thigh Five!!

It was Sahal again who came close, not once but twice. It all happened in the 33rd minute. Liston layed it off for Sahal, who skipped past his marker and took his shot. The goalkeeper was beaten and he was saved by a goal line clearance. Sahal got the ball again on the rebound, but this time his shot missed the top corner by a whisker. Liston came close to scoring as well but he missed a tight angle from close range. Sahal's cutback in the 40th minute found an unmarked Petratos again, but this time he couldn't keep his shot on target.

Bagan kept on piling the pressure and it bore fruit in the 47th minute. Subhasish played a long pass to Sahal who controlled the ball beautifully and was searching for space to pass the ball. But a heavy touch took it away from him, only to be sent in the path of an unmarked Jason Cummings, thanks to a Chennaiyin defender. Cummings scored yet again. The "Joker" celebration was out. Bagan had doubled their lead going into the break.

The second half began as the first half ended. Bagan pressed from all fronts, squeezing the life out of the Chennaiyin team. The intensity, the passing, the elegance just asserted a clear aura of dominance over their rivals. But, Chennaiyin aren't two time ISL champions for nothing. And they showed that they can put up a fight too. It was Rafael Crivellaro who pulled one back via an absolute stunning free kick. The ball took a wicked deflection off Subhasish and Vishal had no chance. 2-1. Game on.

But the best moment of the game came soon. There are some assists which are more beautiful than the goal itself. This was it. 55th minute. Sahal receives the ball just outside the box. He dribbles past three defenders, put a through ball past the other two for an on rushing Manvir who made no mistake and scored his second goal of the season. The goal was great, no doubt, but did we just see an Indian player or was it Mesut Ozil or Lionel Messi? Was it a footballer or an artiste, who keeps on painting and showcasing his art on the canvas of a football field? Amid all the craziness on a football pitch, here we have a player proving his art in every pass he makes, his movements slick as a cobra, his end product venomous for the opposition. All hail him, for he's only and only one. Sahal Abdul Samad. God's own footballer.

Both teams came close after this. Chennaiyin hit the post, Manvir and Thapa came close for Bagan. But no more goals were scored. Everyone still in the euphoria of what they had just witnessed. Sahal played the full game for the first time in two years, and he earned it. The match ended 3-1 in favour of the Mariners. A good result on the road and just before the international break, Bagan sit top of the table having won all three matches in the ISL this season, and overall losing just a solitary game this season so far. Tremendous, yet relentless.

It was a momentous occasion for Deepak Tangri as well who made his senior team come back after an ACL injury which kept him out for most of the season last year. He's an extremely talented player and we wish him all the best so that he can regain his form prior to his injury.



Vishal was playing against the team he once called his own, but that didn't stop our custodian from keeping it solid at the back. Though Bagan dominated the match, Chennaiyin looked dangerous on the counter, and our custodian, bar that free kick, handled it pretty well yet again.


Anwar was solid at the back, thwarting the Chennaiyin counters on a number of occasions. He was instrumental upfront too, always trying to find a way to get into the box and take a shot or assist. He was instrumental in maintaining the high line that Bagan play with.


The Aussie started ahead of Hector Yuste who was rested for this match, and boy did he play well. Solid with his defending, clearing the ball at any hint of danger, he lead the defense like a rock. 


Subhasish played as a part of the back three and kept the Chennaiyin attack at bay. It was his long ball for Sahal which created the second goal. The captain had another great game.


He was Chennaiyin's "Wonder Boy", the centre of their team, their captain, their identity. But none of those feelings came into play as Thapa had yet another brilliant outing. He marshalled the midfield like a boss and contributed both in defense and attack. He could have scored his first goal in this match itself, but it wasn't meant to be.


This guy is sheer brilliance. Boumous had yet another great outing and it was his pre assist for Sahal that created the first goal. Hugo is the engine of this team and he yet again excelled in his role last night.


Manvir has been the silent performer this season. He promised redemption, he has been on the right path so far. 2 goals in three games in the ISL, Manvir has been quick and decisive down that right hand side. The maturity in his game to understand the situation and get his team mates into the game has greatly benefitted the whole team. He scored the third goal via an absolute delicious ball from Sahal.


Liston is a 10/10 player, but his shooting is a 4 or 5. And that's what has bugged him down again and again. Careless long range shots when his team mates are free cannot become the norm. He has to control his urge to shoot this season, but still he has been wasteful on a lot of occasions. His play other than his shooting was good and created a host of chances for Bagan to score from.


He's finally reaching the heights we all knew he can. He moves like a paint brush on a canvas, dances past the defenders like a trained ballerina, he threads his passes like piercing a dagger through the opposition hearts, he does it all with his shining elegance, leaving gold dust everywhere on the pitch. 
He was instrumental in all the goals, with the third one being the finest of the finest. Our very own God's Own Footballer.


Dimi was on the score sheet yet again, opening the scoring via a low header. His signature thigh five has been a joy to watch this season. He had few other chances as well but couldn't capitalise.


What a signing this guy has been. He just can't stop scoring. When he doesn't score he assists. You can never rule out the Joker out of his yard. And he scored again. And he will score again, and again, and again. Jason Cummings has announced himself to the ISL and he's here to break all the scoring records this time around.


Hector Yuste didn't start the game today, but was called into the match towards the final moments to stabilize the defense. And as we know by now, when Yuste is there, we got nothing to fear. A solid 7/10.

Armando Sadiku, Glan Martins, Ashis Rai and Deepak Tangri were also called upon as substitutes to ensure that the team takes all the three points home. They did their jobs, although couldn't help the team score more goals. It was heartening to see Deepak back after a long long time. One hopes we can now see the best of Deepak Tangri, the one we loved so deerly. Rating for all- 6/10


O, Juan Ferrando, how do you keep serving these delicious dishes again and again? The team looked fine tuned to a t, and it was all down to the work of our Spanish gaffer Juan Ferrando and his coaching staff. The gameplay, the substitutions, everything was just perfect.
A solid 9/10 for our coach.


We don't boast numbers on social media every matchday, but that doesn't mean we can't. The travelling fans made the long journey to the south to support our team. And what a support it was!! No doubt, we have the best away fans in the country. The Mariners enjoyed every single bit of the game yesterday like all of us watching the game on our screens. May this be the norm in all the away matches this season. We support our team, where ever they go. Onwards and upwards. Joy Mohun Bagan!!

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