Cracking the Kings, A Cautious Conquest : Mohun Bagan vs Bashundhara Kings Match Preview

 Cracking the Kings: A Cautious Conquest

Dimi Petratos in action against Bashundhara (Courtesy: Mohun Bagan SG Media)

A journey of individual brilliances followed by individual errors led to a frustrating draw for Mohun Bagan when they welcomed Bangladesh giants Basundhara Kings at the Kalinga Stadium. There was disappointment for the Mariners but deep down a sense of respite, as the hard pill, which is that Bashundhara were simply the better “team”, needs to be swallowed. Now the way Bashundhara gel as a unit has been described with quite detail in our article released before this encounter: ‘Know Your Opponents ft. Bashundhara Kings’. Here are some excerpts from that:

“Whenever watching this team, it is an undeniable observation that no player in Oscar’s 11 consider themselves to be superior to the rest. Every player has incredible work ethic as they use every last bit of their stamina to make their presence felt in regions far beyond their positions traditionally expect them to be in. In the era of so called modern football which has made the roles of the defender much more demanding that it used to, its refreshing to see that Bruzon also instructs his forwards, attacking mids and wingers to drop down and defend when necessary, to chase the opposition wingers and make tactical fouls when a potentially dangerous situation is created. It is this mentality of considering every player equal and sharing the attacking and defensive responsibility which has made a team fierce contenders in the South Asian footballing scene.”

It can be opined that the way Mohun Bagan have been approaching their AFC fixtures, especially after that win over Odisha, is way different compared to their ISL matches. There is a general lack of chemistry, and maybe even a bit of complacency. Now whether this arises from the multiple changes in the lineup, which the team is not at all accustomed to, as Juan is famous for hardly making disturbances once his preferred eleven is established at the beginning of the season, is a matter of further discussion. 

Thapa’s absence and Glan’s lack of ball confidence forced the team to attack from wings where Bashundhara created overloads (Courtesy: The AFC Hub YT)

Judging the player performances objectively, Anirudh Thapa’s absence from the heart of the midfield was the most notable. Glan Martins was played in his position, but he brings a very differing set of qualities to the table. While Thapa is the Mr. Dependable of the team, cunningly meandering through sticky situations and becoming the link between the defense and the attacking mid and wings, Glan is a pure destructor with hardly any distributive abilities. He registered a mere 37 touches as a DM whereas Thapa averages nearly 60 passes a game. In situations where Thapa would calmly pass onto Sahal, Boumous or the full backs, Glan was either getting dispossessed or seen launching the ball out for a throw.

It was also the first ever sub par display from Hector Yuste, who had become an instant fan favourite after being signed late in the transfer window by showcasing his intelligent positional skills, which did compensate for his lack of pace, until that evening against the Dorieltons, Robinhos and the Miguel Figueiras. He lost the running battle with Robinho which led to Bashundhara’s first goal, and gifted them another sure opportunity which luckily rattled against the crossbar. It wasn’t the only shot where the goalpost saved an embarrassment for the Mariners, as Robinho nearly pulled off a Hueng Min Son-esque stunner from outside the box. What was notable in that build up sequence was Gaturov’s run through the defenders which created ample space for Robinho to cut in and make that audacious attempt. 

From Left to Right, Heatmaps of Brossou (showing his influence in linking the defense to the attack), and of Robinho and Miguel highlighting their defensive contributions [SofaScore]

Mohun Bagan in build up seemed in too much of a hurry. The picturesque one-two linkups and finding the third man was ditched for a more direct brand of lauching the balls from the defense or the wings to find a runner between the lines. Again this can be attributed to the fact that presence of Glan effectively ruled out not only a passing option but also a creative outlet, forcing them to go wide most of the times in build up where they couldn’t beat the opposition overloads. Even both Bagan goals were built up from the wings. On the other hand it was Bashundhara whose double pivot of Gafurov and Brossou, a ball confident CB Yuldashov, an omnipresent Miguel and the wingers who dropped down significantly more than their opponents, and ensured a smooth and less chaotic build up as there were ample links between the defense as the attack, something Ferrando’s men were desperately lacking. 

It is not going to be an easy job defending against so many talents, especially at their home in front of their noisy fans who will be just meters close from the touchline, due to their Arena having the stands next to the pitch. With Anwar’s medium term injury from the first Bashundhara encounter, the Mariners’ defense has become very vulnerable, as seen in the latest match away at Jamshedpur (read more about the history of football in Jamshepur on our ‘Know Your Opponent’ on this club and its owners), where they had to digest two goals, both arising from the lack of coordination between the new back line of Hamill-Yuste-Subhashish and Vishal Kaith. It ended being a night of Joy for the Baganis as they could score thrice themselves, but that would be no easy feat in front of Bashundhara.

Skipper Subhashish Bose performing his duties as a captain by helping his teammates get their perfect pictures (Courtesy: Mohun Bagan SG Media)

When the Kings came from Bangladesh, they had come with a respect for the Mariners. It was pretty evident, that whatever moves they were making, they were adding some extra detail, an extra caution and attention to that. There was this mentality to prove themselves in the continental stage, as an underdog, as someone who had come agonisingly close to moving past the group games for the last few seasons, in front of a big ISL club. It is this cautious and respectful approach, with which Mohun Bagan need to make this arduous journey to the historic city of Dhaka so as to assure their berth into the successive rounds of this coveted Asian Cup. This squad will face more severe challenges, maybe even more player unavailabilities, more refereeing errors, but these battles are the ones which will harden them to be able to face the even tougher endeavours.

Know More About Our Next Opponent, Bashundhara Kings :

Read, What happened at the last time, when we faced Bashundhara Kings :

Kick OFF: 7.30 PM IST

Live Stream: Sports 18 (TV) and Fancode (OTT)

Venue: Bashundhara Kings Arena, Dhaka, Bangladesh

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