Treble-chasing Mohun Bagan face Mumbai City FC in ISL final


The head coach and captain of the two finalists stand side by side with the ISL Trophy.

“We want to finish the game within 45 minutes,” humorously replied Antonio Lopez Habas when asked about ending the game in 90 or 120 minutes. This shows the confidence of the Mohun Bagan Super Giant head coach, who has won the ISL trophy twice, ahead of the ISL final against Mumbai City FC. Even on the eve of the final, Habas engaged his players in a fun session of handball during training. Watching them, one would hardly anticipate that these boys would be playing in a high-stakes game against a heavyweight opponent.

Just two weeks ago, they defeated Mumbai City FC to lift the ISL League Winners Shield before a capacity crowd at the Salt Lake Stadium. Now, as the ISL final takes place in Kolkata for the first time, the Mariners will look to capitalise on home advantage to defend their ISL Cup after already sealing the ISL Shield and the Durand Cup.

Except for Armando Sadiku, who will miss the final due to suspension, Mohun Bagan will have a full squad for the high-voltage clash. Meanwhile, the visitors will miss two key members of their squad — Akash Mishra and Yoell van Nieff. Akash is yet to recover from the injury he sustained against FC Goa in the first-leg of the semi-final. Van Nieff will miss the clash due to suspension.

It will be a challenge for Peter Kratky to deal with the absence of the Dutchman, as he was one of the midfield mainstays for the Islanders. Mohun Bagan, on the other hand, will want Joni Kauko and his fellow midfielders to capitalise on Van Nieff’s absence. Like Van Nieff, Kauko has been a stalwart in the midfield for the hosts. Since joining the squad in January, he has been a force to reckon with in every game, penetrating opponents’ backlines with defense-splitting passes and also acting as a screen in front of the defence.

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Mehtab Singh. Source: Mumbai City FC

The fate of the game will also be decided by a few other match-ups. First, in the absence of Mishra, eyes will be on Mehtab Singh, who is most likely to shoulder the responsibility of handling Manvir Singh’s attacking prowess down the right flank. Mehtab, usually a center-back, was seen playing as a left-back against FC Goa. Though they managed a clean sheet, it will be interesting to see how he tackles Manvir, who has scored four goals and provided seven assists so far in this ISL.

Like Manvir versus Mehtab, there will be another duel to watch out for at the opposite end; Lallianzuala Chhangte versus Shubhasish Bose. Chhangte is having a season that few could have dreamt of. With 10 goals and six assists, he will be the biggest threat in Mohun Bagan’s box. The responsibility will be on Subhasish to blunt Chhangte’s sheer pace and composure to ensure that the Mizo midfielder couldn’t cause any harm in the home team’s box. Subhasish committed a few errors in the semi-final against Odisha FC while dealing with Roy Krishna’s attacking prowess, but the Mohun Bagan captain is ready to give his best in the final. “I know Chhangte is a good player, but I will give my best to stop him. Instead of talking much in the press conference, now I want to prove myself on the pitch,” Subhasish said at the pre-match press conference.

Dimi Petratos. Source: Mohun Bagan SG

While discussing the match-ups, how can we forget the pied piper of Mohun Bagan, the heartthrob of the Mariners? Yes, it’s Dimi Petratos, the man who has scored twice in the previous ISL final and also scored the winner against East Bengal in the Durand Cup final. With 10 goals and seven assists to his name, Petratos once again will be stepping on the pitch with high expectations. But the Australian forward, who has already made Kolkata and the Mariners his ‘home’, is once again ready to deliver for his team in the final hurdle. His knack for building the attack from the middle of the pitch and attempting long-range shots from outside the box will be a big threat for the visitors.

Keeping all this aside, the shot-stoppers of both teams are also involved in an intense battle off the pitch. Phurba Lachengpa is leading the Golden Gloves charts with nine clean sheets from 21 games, while Vishal Kaith is at the second spot, with the same number of clean sheets but he has played three games more than his Mumbai FC counterpart.

Having joined their respective sides mid-season, both the coaches — Peter Kratky and Antonio Lopez Habas — have done an incredible job to guide their teams near the ultimate silverware. Though in the Shield battle, Habas came out victorious, this time Peter, who made his debut as a head coach with the Mumbai-based club, will look to avenge their defeat in the title decider.

Also Read: ISL 2024: Dimi Petratos and Lallianzuala Chhangte could be the game-changers