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Sunday, January 17, 2021

ISL Wrap: ATK Bagan continue late show, East Bengal end goal drought

ATK Mohun Bagan are level on points with leaders Mumbai City, who remain ahead on goal difference. But Bagan's run busts a myth or two.

Written by Mihir Vasavda | Updated: December 18, 2020 8:59:41 am
Liston Colaco has been one of the most impressive Indian players this season. Credit: ISL

The late, late show by ATK Mohun Bagan continues unabated. Each of the seven goals they have scored this season have come in the second half, four of them have come in the last 15 minutes of regulation time. The trend continued on Wednesday after Roy Krishna scored in the 85th minute to give ATK Mohun Bagan a 1-0 win over Goa.

The result brings them level on points with leaders Mumbai City, who remain ahead on goal difference. But Bagan’s run busts a myth or two. While the pretenders have fussed over playing style, with ‘possession football’ being the buzzword, and moaned about lack of preparation time, the champions have shown remarkable pragmatism in the way they have approached this season.

Antonio Habas has not bothered about how his team plays — so much so that he did not even make them play a pre-season friendly — as long as they dig in their heels and eke out a win. So far, Habas’s strategy has worked. Bagan have been scrooge-like in defence, are not concerned about having possession of the ball or creating goal-scoring chances. And when they have an opportunity at goal, Krishna has not erred.

Their style might not be pretty, but in a unique season that is likely to reward attrition more than flair, it will take something special to dethrone ATK Mohun Bagan.

The foreign hand

Wednesday’s game pitted by far two of the most lethal strikers: Igor Angulo and Krishna. The Fijian might have had the last laugh but it was ATK Mohun Bagan’s Irish defender Carl McHugh who has had a bigger impact.

Given that Bagan have sat deep inside their own halves in most matches, and hitting their opponents on counterattacks, the team’s defence, led by McHugh, has been under considerable pressure. But McHugh’s ability to break the attacks with strong tackles has helped Bagan concede fewest goals this season along with Mumbai. It also gives them a chance to score late-winners, which they have done in abundance.

The Indian angle

Hyderabad’s Liston Colaco, a 22-year-old winger, is fast emerging as the story of this season. A product of Salgaocar’s youth team, he started by playing in Goa’s local league, graduated to the state’s Santosh Trophy side before being snapped up by FC Goa, who made him play for their development team in the second division of the I-League.

Finally, he is rubbing shoulders with the big boys in the ISL and this week, he showed glimpses of what he is capable of after coming on as a second-half substitute and setting up two out of the three goals Hyderabad scored.

Play of the week

Came in the 69th minute of the match between East Bengal and Hyderabad. Colaco received a pass just inside East Bengal’s half on the left and immediately set off. His path was blocked by two defenders in front of him. Colaco swerved to the right, got them to commit, and with a quick shuffle of feet, stepped to the left to take them out of equation. He calmly crossed the ball across the goal, where Halicharan Narzary had to simply tap in to score, which he did.

Top 5 after Matchday 6

 Team	P	W	D	L	GD	Pts
 Mumbai City	6	4	1	1	6	13
 ATK M Bagan	6	4	1	1	3	13
NorthEast Utd	6	2	4	0	3	10
 Bengaluru	5	2	3	0	3	9
 Hyderabad	5	2	3	0	2	9

 

The table is an accurate representation of the teams’ form. Mumbai City, after winning four matches in a row, were held by Jamshedpur. NorthEast, who produced another fine defensive show to hold Chennaiyin, remain a surprise package in the top-four but their resolve will be tested against Jamshedpur, who have remained unbeaten in their last five games (one win and four draws) and are placed seventh.

Results: NE Utd 0 Chennaiyin 0, Bengaluru 4 Kerala Blasters 2, Mumbai City 1 Jamshedpur 1, Hyderabad 3 East Bengal 2, ATK MB 1 Goa 0

Matchday 7 fixtures: Odisha vs Bengaluru, NorthEast Utd vs Jamshedpur, Goa vs Chennaiyin, Hyderabad vs Mumbai City, Kerala Blasters vs East Bengal

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