"Destruction, Domination, Chaos"- Mohun Bagan SG vs FC Goa Review

"Go back Juan, go back". These were the chants that filled the Salt Lake Stadium at full time on Saturday. Just a few months back, Juan Ferrando and this Mohun Bagan team were the apple of every supporter's eye, winning back to back matches, that too with complete domination. Beautiful fluid football, Indians and foreign players clicking it well together, there was a wave of excitement as the new season began. Not to mention winning the Durand Cup, by beating the likes of Mumbai, Goa and the eventually East Bengal in the final had played a big part in raising the hopes for this season. A team built with the best of the best, what possibly could ever go wrong? Well, a lot actually. Fast forward to current times, Mohun Bagan have been knocked out of the AFC Cup, humiliated by Basundhara Kings and Odisha FC. Even in the ISL, we lost the first two decent teams we faced this season. The second one will hurt more honestly, it was not just a defeat, it was humiliation of the highest order. An infamous night that's gonna be etched in our memories for a long, long time.

Pic Courtesy : Indian Super League Media

If there is one team who have stuck with a consistent style of play since the inception of ISL, it's FC Goa. Tell me, when you hear their name, what does it instantly remind you of? Crisp passing, short one twos, high press, dominating the possession in the opposition half. FC Goa have always been that team who like to flaunt their style, and they have built their whole identity around this. And last night was the perfect example of that. Piece by piece, cell by cell, they tore apart the makeshift defense Juan had to put up last night, owing to the suspensions. And, let's just say, defense was the last of our problems. 

Starting the game were Vishal Kaith in goal, with a back three of Deepak Tangri, Brendan Hamill and Sumit Rathi. The midfield consisted of Anirudh Thapa and Glan Martins centrally, supported by Manvir and Subhasish on the wings. Dimi played in the number 10 role, being given the freedom to drift anywhere on the pitch. Upfront were our two marksmen, Sadiku and Cummings. A makeshift defense, Boumous benched, and players performing inconsistently being played again and again, the hopes were bleak even to start with. And it didn't take long to shatter completely.

7:44'. Goa land a freekick on the left flank. The ball is delivered into the box, and finds Odei Onaindia who is off balanced, but still takes a shot. The shot hit an on rushing Manvir Singh on his out stretched arm. Frantic protests followed, yet the referee's mind was made up. Up stepped Noah and he coolly slotted it past Vishal Kaith. 1-0 down. At home. Against Goa. Within the first 10 minutes. Could we have started worse? I doubt it.

Manolo Marquez, among all the good things he has brought into Indian football, the one that stands out is the hunger. His teams never settle for one goal. They score one and go for the second, then the third and so on. What it meant was, Goa had all the big chances in the game. They were patient, playing the passes, keeping the ball. But, once they lost it, they were like animals possessed and didn't rest until they won the ball back. The counters, the build up play were almost too perfect to watch. And what did we do? Long balls in the hope of finding Cummings or Sadiku or Dimi, expecting them to dribble past the entire Goan defense alone and score. All we were dependant on was individual brilliance. Style of play, where was any of that? Goa killed our confidence to play more aggressively, constantly pushing us on the backfoot. High pressing, crisp passing and deadly counters meant we could never really put Arshdeep to the test. Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, our defense and Vishal had to thwart off chances after chances too keep us in the game.

But, it wasn't sustainable, these tactics of luck never are. And Goa broke through, yet again. After missing a few chances, it was Victor Rodriguez's chance to shine. Brandon received the ball on the edge of the box and laying it for an on rushing Victor who chested it down for Carl McHugh. Carl calmly put the ball on a plate for Victor who couldn't miss from five yards out. A knife was drawn into the hearts of the Bagan faithful. Goa were literally toying with us, making a mockery of this team, of the coach and most importantly the vision. The vision to be the best in India, the vision to become a force in Asia. All that just to get butchered at home.

The third goal came swiftly. Noah received the ball on the left and cut inside on his right foot. Poor defending and a brilliant finish meant we were 3-0 down before halftime. Dimi however pulled one back with a sublime finish. Probably the best goal this season, an outrageous effort, a glimmer of hope was born. Can we do it? Can we make a comeback? No ISL team has ever come back from 3-0 down. The fans were eager with excitement to watch how the second half unfolds.

But alas, nothing changed. Juan made a few attacking changes at the break, and it almost immediately backfired when Noah was through on goal to get his hattrick, but had his shot saved by Vishal Kaith. Goa came close again and again and again. It was like they were the team which was 3-1 down. Every time we tried going forward, we were thwarted, nothing worked. Direct route? Fail. Aerial route? Fail. Trying to play on the counter? Epic fail. With only Sadiku upfront, we had no one to aim for. Kiyan and Hugo tried to weave some magic, but 2 men can't win you a game. Dimi tried with his long rangers, Sadiku blasted a few Sixes. Nothing worked.

You know what also failed miserably? Our midfield. After Brendan Hamill went off injured, at most times, we had no one in the midfield. Imagine two parallel lines of FC Goa players and not one player in between to receive the ball from the defense. Players like Thapa, Glan and Abhishek migrated to the defense while the others went up. The strategy? Blast it upfront in the name of Goa and hope, just hope it finds someone. You know what also we were missing? Carl McHugh. We literally let him go after losing Kauko to injury, and whom did we buy to replace him? Absolutely no one. And we felt that yesterday. One just hopes the management wakes up to what a waste of 70 cr it has been and takes the adequate steps.

Goa added a fourth in the dying minutes of the game, from the penalty spot. Savior Gama was brought down in the box and Martinez made no mistake. Helplessness. That's what we felt. That's what the players felt. The fans, and maybe the coach as well. Chants of "Go back Juan" filled the stadium. And all this just few months after large tifos featuring Juan graced the Salt Lake Stadium.

Is it fair to put the entire blame on the manager? Yes, his team selections can be questioned, the player signings can be questioned, but what about the players? Where is the effort? Callous lousy attitude, no intent, no passion for the club. Does this great club deserve this? And who is responsible? Is it sufficient to have a high budget only? Why do we even need 3 foreign strikers when we had Kiyan and Suhail coming through the ranks? Why did we not invest that money into buying a good solid defensive midfielder? Why are our young colts sitting idle after the CFL? What assignment awaits them? Or are they here to take part in matches that the seniors are not interested in playing? Questions need to be asked. This landslide can soon translate into a free fall, a fall that will engulf everyone. The sooner we act, the better.


Let's get on with the match ratings now. Vishal Kaith had an average game, he saved few certain goals, but conceded 4 in the process. The blame should fall more on the defenders than him. Our rating-5/10.

The defense now. Terrible. Pathetic. Disjointed. Granted, we were missing two of our desired center backs, but that can never be an excuse at a club like Mohun Bagan. Some of the defending was just shambolic to say the very least. Be it Tangri, be it Rathi, they just showed that they are not ready. Hamill tried to hold this falling bridge together, but he's human after all. Hamill is injured now, which means these defensive woes may well continue for a longer time now. Subhasish looked lost and confused. Ratings- 4.5/10 for Tangri and Rathi, while Hamill gets a 5/10.  Subhasish-4.5/10

The midfield. Wait, they played? I've never seen a better Houdini act from a Mohun Bagan midfield. Be it Thapa, be it Glan, all were terrible. Manvir was bodied on the right flank multiple times. Even the introduction of Hugo Boumous couldn't do anything.  

The forwards now. Well they tried with the very little service they received. But most of the shots were off target, and not just off target, they were out of desperation and frustration. Putting a long ball upfront in the hope of some magic is never gonna work, and it showed. There was close to no chemistry between the forwards, and although Dimi scored a banger, it was more of a consolation than anything else. 
Ratings- Dimi-6.5/10

Youngsters like Hnamte, Ravi Rana, Suhail and Kiyan were given a chance to help the team, but as was the trend last night, nothing worked. Kiyan looked promising among them. Hnamte was employed as a right back, which was baffling to say the very least. 

And lastly, the gaffer. Nothing specific to say. Yes e can bash him like everyone else is right now. But, this team has bigger problems. We failed with Habbas, we are failing to achieve our targets with Ferrando. Poor recruitment, poor team selection and lack of adaptability to adverse situations has plagued this team. It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming days. Will the axe fall on Juan and end his tenure, or will the management stick with him. Not many managers have survived the "Go Back" chant of the Ultras. Let's wait and watch. Rating-4/10

The state of this team was beautifully described by the English commentator last night-
"Mohun Bagan is a bridge, without the middle support".

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