Mohun Bagan had the pressure of expectation mounting on them when they faced the young and passionate squad of Indian Arrows in Kalyani this afternoon. Yet, experience trumped over the passion of youth. The winning streak of the Kolkata side continued as Mohun Bagan claimed victory with a solo goal in the first half, to cement their position to the top of the table.
Indian Arrows are the black horses of the tournament this season. They toppled a major title contender Churchill Brothers, that too in their home turf when they came from behind to snatch a 2-1 victory. The veteran coach Subhash Bhowmick visited them before the game for some tips and advises. Kibu Vicuna, the Mohun Bagan head coach stated that Indian Arrows are a very competitive team with talented players, and they had to fight if they were to win. However, the match was a bit of a cakewalk for the Mariners.
Aizawl FC made the job easy for Mohun Bagan yesterday, as they came back with an 80-minute goal to draw the match against Churchill Brothers. The Kolkata side had the chance to strengthen their position, and they did not want to miss it at any cost. Mohun Bagan were already in high spirits to get back their star player Fran Gonzales in charge of their midfield. Shanmugam Venkatesh, the Indian Arrows coach, emphasized the importance of experience to play at the top level. In the match, it became the key difference between the two teams.
The Indian Arrows side had nothing to lose from the match. Kibu Vicuna was aware that the main USP of the young side is their spirit and the sprints along the wing. He took countermeasures and implemented player changes to nullify the attack, which was highly effective. The hosts were in a dominant from the start, as VP Suhair and Ashutosh Mehta created several chances.
In the 18th minute of the match, the deadlock was broken. Nongdamba Naorem took a shot which ricocheted off Bikash Yumnam. Daneil Cyrus did not miss the chance as he shot a perfect left-foot volley to score a world-class goal. This scorcher gave Mohun Bagan the lead, and they clung onto it without any trouble. They had chances to go forward from time to time, which were either cleared by the defenders or denied by the woodwork. Any chance of an Indian Arrows counter was nipped in the bud by Fran Morante and Mehta.
The second half began with the same attacking intensity for the hosts. Shots from Cyrus and Morante found the woodwork in close succession. Arrows got a good chance soon after that but failed to convert it. It was followed by some questionable decisions by the referee, as he missed a few close calls around the Arrows box. The final quarter saw a flurry of attacks from the young side. They came dangerously close to levelling the scoreline in stoppage time. However, their effort was cleared off by Pawa Diawara to avert any trouble for the home side.
One of the best moment of the game was actually off the pitch. The younger son of Borja Gomez, the key Spanish defender from archrivals East Bengal, is in serious condition right now, and the player had to fly back home urgently. There was a flex flying in the Mohun Bagan gallery, praying for a speedy recovery of the kid, and urging him to stay strong. This show of solidarity rang true the spirit of the game, rising above the eternal derby rivalry of the two Kolkata giants.
With the win, Mohun Bagan now has 13 points from 6 games, as they now sit comfortably at the top of the table. Indian Arrows sank to the bottom of the table with only 4 points from the same number of matches. The league leaders will now return for their next match away from home, in the league against Minerva Punjab. Indian Arrows will try to get back to the winning ways in their match against TRAU this weekend.Published 10 Jan 2020, 13:25 IST