"The Team of Bazigars"- Revenge taken with love, as Mohun Bagan beat FC Goa in a tightly fought contest- ISL Match Review

Har kar jeetne waale ko Bazigar kehte hai

A line embedded in every Indian's mind. It doesn't matter if you know from which film this dialogue is, it doesn't matter if you have seen the film or even plan on watching it. What matters is the emotion, the zeal, the determination that is conveyed by this single line. You can be down, but you are never out. 

Pic Courtesy : MBSG & ISL Media

For the uninitiated, you might feel, "Shouldn't the most valuable team in Indian football comfortably beat the other teams?" Well yeah, they should. In an ideal world that is. But just like the concept of ideal fluid, the ideal world doesn't exist. External factors are not constant, and any change in them causes, at times, irreplaceable changes on the on field results. If you remember, Bagan had to endure three straight defeats at the end of last year. Losses to Mumbai, Goa and Kerala had seriously dented Bagan's title hopes. This lead to the sacking of Juan Ferrando and the homecoming of Antonio Habas. Cut to February, Bagan have taken a few strict decisions, and are back on track. Granted winning the league will still not be easy, as the other teams won't give an inch. But performances like today's ensure confidence among the fans. So sit back and let's dive into the events that unfolded on a love filled day at the Fatorda.

The weight of being the only unbeaten side in the league this season was on the shoulders of Manolo Marquez and his Goan team. And the Gaurs looked more settled and well balanced out of the two, atleast on paper. But football is played on a field of grass, and the result doesn't come at those who play beautifully, but to those who aspire to delve deep into the laws of the game, to snatch the three points. And Mohun Bagan did that. 

Habas started with Vishal Kaith in goal. The back three was made up of Subhasish Bose, Hector Yuste and a new name in Dippendu. Deepak Tangri and Anirudh Thapa were the two defensive midfielders with Sahal playing in a more advanced role. Ashis Rai and Manvir Singh starred on the flanks. Upfront were Armando Sadiku and the heart beat of this team, Dimi Petratos. A 3-5-2 against a free flowing Goa side, which can easily transition to a 5-3-2 out of possession was the plan for tonight. Habas placed equal emphasis on defense and attack, but everyone knew the job won't be that easy.

Pic Courtesy : MBSG & ISL Media

Bagan had never lost back to back away games in the history of the ISL. A fight to curb the downfall, a fight to show we are alive on a day of love. The Fatorda was ready for it. And so it begun. And no wonder it was Goa who came close first. Carlos Martinez would be fuming at himself as he mistimed his run before hitting the post from a header within the first 5 minutes itself. The assault on the Bagan goal didn't stop with Odei potentially scoring the first goal of the game in the 12th minute. The genius of Brandon Fernandes combined with the brilliant run into the box made by Odei resulted the ball being put into the net, but the referee ruled the goal out. The referees judged that the ball had already gone past the back line and rewarded a goal kick to Bagan. One might wonder if the goal would have stood if VAR was there, but that can be said about a lot of other decisions that could be deemed dubious later in the match.

Goa didn't sit back and lament, they piled on the pressure like the last meeting. Brandon was looking dangerous, as his predatory instincts wrecked havoc for the Bagan defense. Hector, Subhasish and young Dippendu were equal to the task, but this was not a sustainable approach. Bagan fans were beginning to remember the last game. The flood gates once opened, drowned the hopes of any come back. Surely the team was ready and won't commit those same errors this time round. 

Dimi tried to release the pressure with a curler from outside the box, but it was gloved away by a full stretched Arshdeep. The best chance of the first half undoubtedly fell at the feet of Carlos Martinez. A ball into the box from Ayush Chhetri was not met sweetly by Noah, but the ball fell to Martinez. He showed his class, controlling the ball with his head before taking a wild swing at the ball from close range with just the keeper to beat. Jay Gupta also had a few few shots from distance, but they didn't trouble Vishal. In fact most of the chances fell to Goa in the first half. Bagan got an odd chance here and there, but those were not utilized fully, resulting in way ward shots into the stands. The score at half time read 0-0. Bagan had endured the Goan storm for 45 minutes. Will that be the norm in the second half too, or will things change?

The second half saw a change. A sight we were introduced to in the last game itself. Joni Kauko was back again. This time for an entire half. A player who was a guaranteed starter before rupturing his ACL, it was nice to have him back. Goa however weren't in the mood to celebrate his return, as they kept on the pressure. Carlos Martinez unleashed a powerful shot yet again but this time it was off target. Noah tried but couldn't score. It was as if the Goan players were taking shooting drills, with everyone taking a chance to break the wall that Habas had made. 

Odai attempting a reckless tackle on Joni, Pic Courtesy : Jio CInema

62nd minute of the game. Odei made a heavy touch on the ball and Joni Kauko pressed him and would have reached the ball first if not Odei had lunged in hard. Was a penalty? Or was it a fair tackle? Again, VAR may have had a say, but this isn't a "What If" series from Marvel. This is Indian Super League. And we don't have the VAR. If decisions against certain teams are protested loud on social media, should the decision in favor of them, that too dubious ones, be protested as well. That's what integrity is. The game looked destined for a draw, or at best a win for FC Goa. But as they say, the God had other plans. The green and maroon God. The Dimi-God.

Kauko played a defense splitting forward pass for Manvir which was woefully cleared by an on rushing Arshdeep. The ball fell kindly to Dimi, who didn't think twice before lofting it over the keeper into the goal. A goal from far out. A goal of sheer brilliance, a classic goal from a classic player. And the celebration matched it. The "McGregor Walk" as they call it. The walk that has personified the immensely talented yet egoistic and charismatic Conor McGregor, the walk of a confident champ. The walk of a lion, the walk of our Dimi God. He's a class above the rest, he doesn't need the labels, cause he writes them himself. He's branded, and he's a single piece. He's ours. And we love him.

Mohun Bagan finally took the lead. The question was, can they hold it? No team has done it this season. Manolo and his army has been so good and deadly this season. Was it time for them to taste defeat? Bagan looked determined to make it happen. Petratos tried to lob the keeper again this time from an outrageous angle, and came mighty close. Bagan piled on the pressure on the counter with the likes of Liston on the field. Manvir made waste of a golden chance in the 89th minute. The lack of confidence while finishing from the Indian forward was clearly visible. One on one against Arshdeep, he could have taken a shot, but decided to pull it back for Petratos. And he failed at that, quite miserably. Also there could've been a Penalty for Bagan as well, as the returning ball got deflected away by Carl McHugh is hand.

Pic Courtesy : Jio Cinema

Liston had his free kick saved in extra time. The final whistle came at the end of the six added minutes. And the result was ours. The points were ours. Senor Habas has done it again. How he does it only he knows. But he is effective. He won't play beautiful football just for the sake of it. But this team has something that was missing under Juan Ferrando. The guts, the hunger, the determination to win. The Habas effect is truly on the way, and we already have new gem thanks to him.

Let's take a moment to appreciate Dippendu Biswas. Playing as the right centre back and replacing the mercurial Anwar Ali, that too in a crucial game against Goa is hard enough for any youngster. But that doesn't apply to Dippendu. He was solid, cool and composed. He looked like a seasoned defender who's been plying his trade for years. For the stats nerds, Dippendu made two clearances, 4 interceptions, won 50% of his ground duels and had a 73% accurate passing stat, that too against arguably the best team as per form this season. Dippendu was everywhere and one just hopes this becomes the norm. Bagan has already given chances to a lot of young talent this season, be it Raj or Abhishek or Suhail or Amandeep or Hnamte or Dippendu. This shows a clear trend. The focus is now on producing the stars, rather than emptying the bank on buying them from other teams. And I for one, am truly in favor of this approach. 

Pic Courtesy : Impression Sports Media

Mohun Bagan under Habas is looking resilient and hungry. The focus on youth, the focus on getting the points and winning seems to have gone down quite well among the players. There's no place for complacency now, as we get into the most important phase of the league, with matches coming in thick and fast. Can Mohun Bagan win the league, adding another chapter to it's already elaborate history? Only time will tell. Until then spread love, spread MohunBaganism.



Vishal 7
Subhasish 7
Hector 6.5
Dippendu 7.5
Ashish 7
Deepak 6.5
Thapa 6
Sahal 6.5
Manvir 6.5
Dimitri 8.5
Sadiku 6

Abhishek 7
Kauko 7
Hnamte 6.5
Liston 6.5
Kiyan 6

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