"God's Own Football"- The Race for the League Shield intensifies as Bagan beat the Blasters | Kerala Blasters FC vs Mohun Bagan SG | Indian Super League Match Review |

Pic Courtesy : Indian Super League Media

It was a game with more twists and turns that a Bollywood movie. The pendulum swung at a pace which was almost too rapid for the fans to breathe. A spectacle that will surely go down as one of the finest in ISL history. A game which screamed after every goal, "Picture abhi baki hai mere dost".

Last December. Bagan hosted the Blasters at home. We had already lost two matches on the trot to Mumbai and then Goa. Our backs were against the wall, and something had to be done to arrest this free fall. The Blasters on the other hand were flying. They had been soaring high in the league with almost all their players firing to the top of their potential. Bagan lost that day. In what turned out to be the last ISL game for our then head coach Juan Ferrando in the dugout, Bagan were simply helpless. No bite in the attacking third, non existent midfield and a shaky defense. The team was nothing but a hollow cylinder made of gold, it was expensive but it lacked the soul to play for this club.

Senor Habas after the Match | Pic Courtesy : MBSG Media

Well cut to 13th March, 2024 and we have a new man in the dugout. The Spanish maestro Antonio Habas to guide this team to the pinnacle of Indian football. He started his job right off the bat, taking some very bold decisions which have helped this team in the long run now. And yesterday was the ultimate test. Kochi is known to create tough atmospheres for the visiting teams. The sheer passion for football, the demanding fans from the southern state of Kerala want nothing but a win. Add to this atmosphere the fact that Bagan had to play a tiring and intense Kolkata Derby game against arch rivals East Bengal on Sunday. All in all, the odds were stacked against Bagan yet again. One loss and Mumbai were going to get a free run at the league shield. Bagan could not slip up, no matter what. Moments like these give rise to the heroes that go down in the folklore of football. And today, we had a new hero to emerge out of the shadows. Armando Sadiku.

Let's begin from the very beginning. Habas started with derby hero Vishal Kaith in goal. Hector, Subhasish and Anwar formed the usual back three. Deepak Tangri started as the sole defensive midfielder, with Kauko and Sahal starting in front of him. Manvir and Ashish Rai started on either flanks. Upfront were Dimi and Sadiku.

It was a game of re-unions to begin with. Sahal was playing at Kochi for the first time since his big move in the summer to Bagan from Kerala. Our ex captain Pritam Kotal and Prabir Das also started against Mohun Bagan. All in all, it was a spicy end of the season affair. The hype was there, the players were there, the show was about to get started.

Pic Courtesy : Indian Super League Media

One man looked hungry from the very beginning. Armando Sadiku had already taken two shot within the first three minutes. He looked like he had to prove to the coach why he deserved to start every game. And so he did. A brilliant run, an individual masterpiece. Words will fail to define the beauty of his goal. A flick over the on rushing Pritam Kotal, the strength to ward off a strong Drincic, and the accuracy of master archer, Sadiku had it all. The ball went into the back of the net. The players were ecstatic, the crowd went silent. But there was one man, a lion who was roaring. After months of trolls and criticism, he had finally arrived. Bagan lead 1-0 within the first five minutes.

Kerala however put this early setback behind them as they slowly grew into game. Daisuke Sakai and Diamantakos especially were looking very threatening. Daisuke with his pacy inverted runs from the left was creating problems for the Bagan defense. Diamantakos was looking dangerous as well and created a few opportunities. Bagan didn't sit back either as they played more on the counter to ward off this storm of attacks from the Blasters. Kerala came closest to scoring via a shot from Daisuke which was parried away by Vishal. Sahal and Dimi on the other end were hardly getting any chances. Bagan were looking good on the counter and tried to narrow the filed of play in order to block the Blasters attack through the middle, but in accurate long balls gave back the possession many times. All in all, the first half ended 1-0 in favor of Bagan.

The second half is where all the frenzy started. The pendulum swung violently, almost at a pace that was too rapid for the fans to hold their breath. Let's dive in.

Bagan looked to break the shackles they'd been put under in the first half and come out in full attacking mode. Sadiku was again at the forefront of it. His runs, his willingness to latch onto anything in the box, his desire and determination to put his body on the line to score was truly commendable. Not only him, others like Kauko and Dimi slowly grew into the game. But just when it looked like Bagan would add a second, it was tragedy at the other end. Kerala played a string of intelligent passes, creating the room and space for a shot from Vibin Mohanan. And he didn't miss as he guided the ball into the net. Kochi exploded. Vibin had scored his first goal for his club. All of a sudden, all looked lost for Bagan. But, there were more twists to come.

59th minute of the game. Dimi put the ball into the box from a free kick. The ball was cushioned into the path of Sadiku by Subhasish. Sadiku didn't think twice and put his foot through the ball. And bang!! The ball ended in the net. He had done it again. The man who was under so much criticism, the man every fan wanted to leave, he rescued the lead again for Bagan. Fate is mysterious thing, you never know in which direction your life is going to go. And Sadiku experienced just that. From blasting clear cut chances early in the season, to scoring two in one of the most difficult away games of the season, Armando Sadiku had arrived. 2-1 Bagan.

But Bagan's joy again didn't last long. It was Cernych who put the ball in for Diamantakos. Anwar and Yuste didn't communicate well enough, giving the Greek ample amount of space and time to take his hot and score. A heartbreaking way to concede after Bagan just scored at the other end. The defense was in shambles. Kerala was dancing again. Were they gonna complete the comeback? Or will someone else rise, a new hero perhaps. And a new hero was born.

Abhishek had just come onto the field and he took a long range shot to test Karanjit. The keeper parried it away for a corner. Dimi took the corner as usual, and it was met by the head of a new hero. A hero who had been on the sidelines because of injuries for too long. A hero who had Mohun Bagan in his veins, a hero whose flight was long awaited by all the Mariners. It was Deepak Tangri. He ghosted into space and headed the ball in from close range. And not only that, this young man did something which most can only dream of. He shushed the Kochi crowd. The hallowed crowd of Kochi, one of the most daunting and difficult stadiums to play in the ISL. And here was this young man who was cupping his ears in front of this crowd. The boy always had guts, but today was something else. He had the ability to make a difference when the team needed. He had the ability to elevate himself. Deepak Tangri had arrived everyone. Bagan lead again in this crazy game, this time by 3 goals to two.

Bagan didn't sit back. Sadiku could have and would have scored, if not he had been fouled in the box. A stone wall penalty in any part of the world, it was not given. Just makes you think, are the referees biased to appease the home crowd? Or are they really so incapable of making the correct decisions that even someone watching on a mobile phone can tell? Either way, it was a disgraceful decision to say the very least. Dimi came close to scoring, thanks to Sadiku yet again, but his shot hit the woodwork.

The Clear Foul on Sadiku, but Ref denied the PEN | Pic Courtesy : Jio Cinema & ISL Media

Habas brought on Liston and Cummings in the dying minutes to exploit the high line of the Blasters through pace. And it bore fruit. Leskovic had to make a miraculous save off his boot to keep off Cummings from scoring, but neither him nor anyone could do anything a few minutes later. It was almost as if they had given up. They didn't bother to run. Liston's cross was met by Manvir who was robbed off the ball by Leskovic, but it fell straight to Cummings who scored yet again from 5 yards out. The Mariners thought they were going top of the table, but there was another twist in the end. Diamantakos scored his second goal of the game, this time through a header off a cross from Justine. Surely no more twists  right?

Yup, no more twists. Bagan secured the win 4-3. A crazy second half, but three points is all that matters. Bagan are currently second in the table, tied on points with Mumbai City FC. We have a game in hand, and should be looking to win that to go three points clear at the top of the table. As for this match, it will be remembered for the sheer numbers of twists and turns. The pendulum kept swinging to and fro. Armando Sadiku had finally arrived, and so did Deepak Tangri. This Bagan team looks determined to win the league shield this time around. Can they do it? Can we win the only trophy missing in our cabinet this year? Time will tell. Until next time, Joy Mohun Bagan!!


Vishal - 6.5/10
Subhasish - 6/10
Hector - 6/10
Anwar - 6.5/10
Asish - 6/10
Deepak - 7.5/10
Sahal - 6.5/10
Kauko - 7/10
Manvir - 7.5/10
Dimi - 6.5/10
Sadiku - 9/10


Abhishek - 7/10
Thapa - 6.5/10
Jason - 7.5/10
Liston - 6.5/10

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