Mohun Bagan miss chance to go top after home defeat to Chennaiyin


“We are hoping to ensure that this won’t affect us,” said Manuel Perez, Mohun Bagan Super Giant assistant coach, radiating confidence on the eve of the game against Chennaiyin FC, when asked about how the long international break might affect the team’s rhythm, as it had last November. Unfortunately, history repeated itself as the Salt Lake Stadium witnessed a disheartening defeat for the home team, courtesy a spirited second-half performance from Chennaiyin.

Disruptions caused by international breaks are not uncommon in the ISL, as several title-contending clubs have faced similar challenges. Kerala Blasters, for instance, experienced a loss of momentum after leading the table before the AFC Asian Cup. Following a month-long break, Ivan Vukomanovic’s side have lost five of their last seven games and now find themselves in fifth place after being knocked out of the ISL Shield race.

In November 2023, the high-flying Bagan faced a similar setback after five players joined the national team for the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Kuwait and Qatar. Subsequently, Bagan lost five of their next eight games, jeopardising their position as contenders for the League Shield. This rough patch led to the dismissal of Juan Ferrando, the Spanish coach who had led them to glory last season.

Fortunately, under the guidance of Antonio Lopez Habas, the team rejuvenated their League Shield aspirations, remaining unbeaten in eight games before eight players left to represent the national team in World Cup qualifiers against Afghanistan. However, once again, the team struggled to regain momentum after the long break, succumbing to a 3-2 defeat against Chennaiyin despite taking an early lead in the first half.

For the Latest Sports News: Click Here

Manuel Perez, MBSG Assistant Coach
Manuel Perez, MBSG Assistant Coach (PC: ISL/X)

Additionally, Sahal Abdul Samad’s absence due to injury further weakened the team’s midfield in Sunday’s clash. Sources indicate that Sahal is likely to miss Bagan’s next two games as well, with the hope being that he will return for their last league fixture against Mumbai City FC. Similarly, Ashique Kuruniyan’s injury, sustained during the national camp in Thailand, sidelined him for the entire season.

On Sunday, Bagan had a golden opportunity to climb atop the ISL table and move closer to the elusive ISL shield if they beat ninth-placed Chennaiyin. However, after Joni Kauko’s opener, it was evident from the team’s performance that the international break had had a telling effect on the team’s cohesion. Although Bagan dominated the early exchanges, it was the visitors who looked revitalised in the second half and they capitalised on the host’s sloppy defence. With this defeat, the Kolkata giants will have to ensure that they take nine points from their last three games to clinch the ISL Shield.

“It will now be more difficult to win the League Shield, but it’s in our hands,” said Perez, who was in the dugout in the absence of Habas, who was feeling unwell. “We have three games remaining. We need nine points to become the champions.”

Mohun Bagan’s last chance to claim the ISL Shield came in the 2020-21 season when they missed out on an inferior goal difference to Mumbai City. Now, with three matches remaining – against Punjab FC (away), Bengaluru FC (away), and Mumbai (home), the Mariners’ task seems daunting. Though the management is optimistic that the boys in green-and-maroon shirts will regain their mojo, if they miss out on the Shield, many will be privately furious about the international break and key players getting injured.

Also Read: The Making of Riyan Parag 2.0: A Sporting Family, 12-hour shifts, and Zubin Bharucha

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *