ATK Mohun Bagan and Kerala Blasters kicked off the 2019/20 season of the Indian Super League with Roy Krishna scoring the only goal of the game. The slender 1-0 win marked an important win for The Mariners as this was also their first win in ISL football history.
The Kerala Blasters, on the other hand, will have a lot to think about, especially when it comes to attack and how Kibu Vicuna can use the five substitutions available to him. The Blasters face off against NorthEast United FC next on Thursday (26th November) while ATK Mohun Bagan play SC East Bengal in the Kolkata Derby on Friday (27th November).
Here are a few things we learned from the first match of the ISL season.
Kerala Blasters v ATK Mohun Bagan - What we learned
#1 Kibu Vicuna still looking for his best XI
The most glaring of the surprises made by Kibu Vicuna in the starting XI was naming Sergio Cidoncha as the captain ahead of Costa Nhamoinesu. Of course, Vicuna had stated that there were three captains in the squad, but the first-choice had been the Zimbabwean.
Among the players expected to start, Nishu Kumar, Seityasen Singh and Rohit Kumar were all on the bench. Bakary Kone, who had not played a single pre-season friendly, was given a start ahead of Lalruatthara. Rahul KP, who had scored a couple of goals in the pre-season friendlies, was omitted from the squad altogether. It is highly speculated that the young winger is suffering from an injury.
Needless to say, this is not the strongest squad Kibu Vicuna can play, and he will most certainly have a lot on his plate ahead of the game against NorthEast United FC.
#2 Roy Krishna still the sharpshooter for ATK Mohun Bagan
Roy Krishna was among the most important pieces in the jigsaw puzzle for Antonio Lopez Habas last season as the Fijian smashed 15 goals while claiming the ISL Golden Boot. Although it has been eight months since they played, Krishna was on the scoresheet for The Mariners and will be key to his side's chances as the Kolkata Derby looms over the horizon.
#3 Sandesh Jhingan looking for his first-ever career trophy
In all the years that Sandesh Jhingan was with Kerala Blasters, he has never lifted a top division trophy. The 27-year-old, however, was on song against his former club as he marshaled the ATK Mohun Bagan defensive line alongside Tiri and Pritam Kotal. One can very well assume that this season is Jhingan's best opportunity to secure a piece of silverware - something that has eluded him in his career.
#4 Quality of football to only get better
Although football has not been played in the last few months in India, all 22 players on the field looked well up to speed. Of course, this began to wane in the second half when tiredness kicked in, but the quality of football was nevertheless astounding. Needless to say, it can only get better from hereon as far as Kerala Blasters and ATK Mohun Bagan are concerned.
#5 ATK Mohun Bagan - Favorites from the start
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Although these are just early days in the ISL, ATK Mohun Bagan seem to have found their feet despite not having played any pre-season friendlies. With most of their players fit and Roy Krishna finding the back of the net, The Mariners are favorites for sealing off a playoffs spot at the very least this season.