Habas Ball in full flow as The Mariners down The Highlanders at home - Mohun Bagan SG versus NorthEast United FC Indian Super League Match Review !

Mohun Bagan used to play a lot of evening games in their pre ISL days. In the I-League and CFL afternoon kick offs are common for the fans. While this may affect the quality of display from the players due to the searing heat and humidity of the Indian sub continent. But such matches have a visual appeal to the spectators, especially for those who can't attend games because of the late games. A grand crowd of 29,888 attended the game, and well it's safe to say, they got their money's worth.

Mohun Bagan had been under pressure throughout the season. The pressure of winning every game, every trophy, every tournament. Injuries, failures, off field issues had destabilized the season mid way, especially after the team triumphed in the Durand Cup. After the super cup debacle, it was as if Mohun Bagan had been written off by everyone. And then arrived the messiah. A guy who knows ISL better than anyone, who knows Kolkata football all too well. The disciplinarian, the head master, the crude tactician, Antonio Lopez Habas. And the ship has been stabilized somewhat. The team has been unbeaten in the league under the guidance of Habas, and are back in the title challenge, just 2 points behind Odisha FC whom we play next.

Habas opted for Vishal Kaith in goal as usual. In defense he gave the start to Dippendu Biswas, our own local boy. Along with Dippendu we also had Subhasis and Hector making up the back three. Abhishek Suryavanshi started in the midfield along with the returning Joni Kauko and Sahal Abdul Samad while Manvir and Liston started on the flanks. Jason Cummings and Dimi Petratos started upfront.

The game couldn't have started much worse for Bagan, as North East were awarded a penalty within the first 6 minutes. Jithin MS had made a searing run past Dippendu and was looking to play in a cross into the box. Dippendu had already committed into the slide challenge and the ball met with his elbow and the referee pointed straight to the spot. Tomi Juric made no mistake as his powerfully driven shot couldn't be kept out by Vishal Kaith. 1-0 North East.

Juric Scoring the Opener for NorthEast. Courtesy Jio Cinema

In fact, no one well versed with Indian football would have been surprised. North East have been smarter this season, and thanks to the appointment of Mandar Tamhane, their player recruitment has been very good. Their front three looked dangerous and kept piling on the pressure, pressing the Bagan defense at every opportunity. But Bagan never gave up. And that has been the norm under Antonio Habas. The team remains focused and never gives up. Bagan tried to counter with Liston, Dimi, Manvir and Cummings.

Liston tried to dribble past the defense on a lot of occasions but failed much to the dismay of the crowd. He could complete only one out of his three attempted dribbles, loosing the ball 18 times during the game. Manvir squandered atleast two good chances while opting for a cut back rather than taking the shot when it would have been the better option. A discussion needs to happen on this subject. Indian forwards need to be made aware that they can shoot and score too. This lack of confidence is sad to see.

Pic Courtesy : MBSG Media

Bagan kept piling up the attacks, corner after corner, pass after pass. The ball seemed destined to land in the net. And so it did. Liston, who had one long ranger saved earlier in the game, converted this time. A  smart pass from Joni Kauko found Liston in space who didn't think twice before taking the shot from outside the box. The ball took one drop before the keeper and that was enough to beat keeper Mirshad. Bagan had equalized. The ball had landed in the net. The stadium erupted. Liston was jubilant and did his trademark celebration. Bagan were back. Game on.

And the game turned on it's head, in the dying minutes of the extra rime in first half. Dimi put in a free kick from deep which was flicked on by Hector Yuste. And guess whom the ball fell to? Joni "the Hulk" Kauko. Joni headed the ball first time and laid it on a plate for Jason Cummings who scored from close range. The stadium erupted yet again. Cummings with his celebration, the fans going wild. This is Kolkata football. All the attacks paid off. The plan worked. Bagan took the lead, and this closed the first half of action. A half of pulsating action, marked by the brilliance and fluidity of a resurgent green and maroon brigade.

The second half begun as the first half for Bagan. Nestor flicked on a header for Tomi Juric who out muscled and out classed young Dippendu before unleashing a thunderbolt that crippled Vishal Kaith's goal. What a goal, from what a player! Players like these make the opposition fans stand up and applaud. Juric was a one man army upfront, with is pace, strength and height making him almost unplayable at times. But there was no time to ponder for Bagan. They had to get back the lead. The title race was at stake. And the boys gave it their all.

And who else? The heartbeat of Mohun Bagan, the apple of the eye of all the Mohun Bagan fans, Dimi Petratos. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Cummings laid the ball for Dimi to put his own thunderbolt of a shot past a helpless Mirshad, who was beaten for the third team in the game. The walk came out, the walk of a champion. A man almost too good to watch, his play too beautiful to describe. The goal was beautiful, but the aggression in the shot marked the confidence possessed by the messiah for Bagan. Dimi had done it. The aim was now to hold on to this lead. And Habas, as we know is a master at this.

Thunderbolt strike from Dimi. Pic Courtesy MBSG Media

The final nail in the coffin for North East was put in by Sahal Abdul Samad. Joni Kauko turned visionary yet again as his pass cut through the North East defense and found Sahal. Sahal didn't commit the mistake Manvir did, and took the shot himself and boy oh boy, what a great goal that was. 4-2 Mohun Bagan. The game was surely over for North East. Sahal looked happy and relieved at the same time. Running straight to the fans, thanking the heavens, our boy wonder grinned from tooth to tooth. The love for our new magician was palpable in the Salt Lake too. What also was palpable, was the return for Joni Kauko. He was back. The passing, the intelligence and the class of this player is almost impossible to replace. A hattrick of assists and a man of the match performance from our Finnish superstar.

The game also saw the return of Anwar Ali. The team finally seems coming together. If all the players are available, there will be no stopping this Mohun Bagan side. Both the sides kept throwing the punches at each other, but the final score didn't change. 4-2 and a comfortable home victory for Mohun Bagan. The real test starts now. The test that will determine whether Bagan become the ISL Shield winners for the first time. Standing in our way are Odisha FC, FC Goa and Mumbai City FC among others. Even Kerala Blasters are in the race for the top spot. Such competitiveness has been rare in the ISL over the years. Every team starts off as equals, but in the end only two teams always seemed in the race. This has changed this year. And no one is complaining. 

Up next, Odisha FC. The current table toppers. We've beaten them this season, but we've also gotten humiliated by them. It will be an interesting battle, as Habas will be up against his old nemesis Sergio Lobera. Can Bagan do the unthinkable and win the ISL League shield after undergoing that late December catastrophe? The players seem ready, the coach is ready, the fans are ready. Expectations are sky high. Time will give all the answers we seek. Until then keep reading and for all Mohun-Baganis, 


Our 4 Goal Scorers celebrating the 3 Goal Assistor. Pic Courtesy : Mohun Bagan Fanatics 


Vishal : 7/10
Subhasish : 7.5/10
Hector : 7/10
Dippendu : 7/10
Abhishek : 7/10
Kauko : 9/10
Sahal : 7/10
Manvir : 7/10
Liston : 8/10
Dimi : 8/10
Jason : 8/10

Anwar : 6.5/10
Ashish : 6.5/10
Deepak : 6.5/10
Sadiku : 6/10
Hnamte : 6/10


"𝐑𝐄𝐓𝐔𝐑𝐍 𝐎𝐅 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐇𝐔𝐋𝐊" : Mariners Arena unveiled a brilliant tifo for our very own Joni Kauko, who just made a brilliant comeback for us, after a season long injury.

"𝐁𝐑𝐄𝐀𝐊 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐖𝐀𝐋𝐋, 𝐑𝐈𝐏 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐍𝐄𝐓, 𝐆𝐈𝐕𝐄 𝐓𝐇𝐄𝐌 𝐍𝐎 𝐐𝐔𝐀𝐑𝐓𝐄𝐑" : Mariners Base Camp - Ultras Mohun Bagan unveiled a brilliant tifo for our Warriors (Dimi, Sadiku, Kauko, Subhasish, Vishal) at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan. Pic Courtesy: Jio Cinema

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