Mohun Bagan lost today’s AFC Cup match 1-0 to Kuwait SC. Mohun Bagan put up a brilliant fight today but due to a mistake by defenders conceded a silly goal in 2nd half. Baichung and Ishfaq missed easy chances to score. Mohun Bagan will next play their AFC Cup match on April 21st whereas their next I league match is scheduled on April 12th against Dempo. The last round I league match of Mohun Bagan will be held in Ambedkar Stadium on April 16th against Mahindra United.
Mohun Bagan fought hard today but lost 1-0 to Kuwait SC in their AFC Cup match played in Howrah Stadium. After losing this match, it has now become really hard for them to reach the next round. They now have three matches remaining in this tournament out of which two are away matches. Mohun Bagan had a great first half and was attacking from the very 1st minute. Ishfaq made a good start and he was seen falling back and snatching nicely and also with his speedy run was bothering the Kuwaiti right back a lot. In 3rd minute, Baichung gave a sliding pass to Habibur but his center went straight to Kuwait goalkeeper. In 8th minute, James nicely took the ball from a Kuwait midfielder and gave a good pass to Barreto but he hesitated a bit and lost possession of the ball. Barreto played today’s match with fever. Karim said after match, "Barreto was not physically fit to play today’s match but he made a sacrifice for the team and agreed to play." In 13th minute, Mohun Bagan missed the easiest chance of the match. From Habibur center, Baichung brilliantly got past the central defender of Kuwait and goalkeeper was out of position. Baichung hurriedly lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper but ball went out over cross bar, he could have opted for dribbling past the keeper, a nice effort by Baichung went in vain. In 19th minute, F. Laheeb got the ball at edge of box but Odafe who had a superb match in defence nicely followed him, did not commit and made a brilliant tackle to avert danger. In the next minute, Dipak-Baichung-Ishfaq build up a nice move via left flank but Ishfaq’s center went over Dipak’s head to goalkeeper. In 23rd minute, Ishfaq again made a good run down left flank and crossed the ball to far corner of the box towards Baichung but goalkeeper came out and collected the ball nicely. Kuwait SC coach was seen shouting instructions "Don’t loose the ball, hold the ball." Since Mohun Bagan was dominating the match, the experienced coach wanted to slow down the game and not lose possession easily.
In 25th minute, Karim asked Ishfaq to change flanks with James Singh. When we asked coach after the match about this change, he said, "Actually the right back of Kuwait SC was matching well with Ishfaq and he was covering up Ishfaq well, so I brought James to this side as James can cross the ball from behind the player while in the right flank while Ishfaq can easily beat their left back by speed." In 32nd minute, a Kuwait player got slightly injured and fell to ground, referee said play-on and James Singh took the ball and took a shot towards goal that went over cross bar. Suddenly the Kuwait players charged Mohun Bagan players for carrying on the game and pushed Marcos and Baichung. Marcos retaliated and the match was stopped for 3 minutes. Marcos and F. Laheeb was shown yellow card. In 41st minute, Barreto and Ishfaq combined well down left flank and Barreto was fouled outside box, but Marcos direct free kick hit the human wall and went out. In 3rd minute of extra time, from Odafe long throw, Rakesh back headed the ball which Ishfaq took a flying side volley but ball went out, this was also a good chance wasted.
Mohun Bagan continued their domination in 2nd half. In 5th minute, James took a shot from outside box that went straight to goalkeeper. In 9th minute, Habibur who had a good match released the ball from right flank which Baichung leaped to head the ball but was collected safely by the keeper. In 12th minute, from Marcos corner, Odafe headed the ball that was cleared from goalline. Kuwait SC then had a good spell of football for about 15 minutes in which they scored the goal. In 13th minute from counter attack, Dipak easily lost possession of the ball and F. Laheeb who was undoubtedly the best player for Kuwait SC made a down the middle run and took a shot from edge of the box that beat Sangram and missed by a whisker. In 14th minute of this half, Mohun Bagan made the first change of the match bringing on Mama in place of James Singh. In the next minute, Kuwait SC got a very good chance when from E. Saleh’s center, F. Laheeb headed the ball out from very close range. In the 18th minute, Ishfaq needlessly conceded a free kick in left side of the box. J. Alateeqi floated the ball inside box and Mohun Bagan defence perhaps made the only mistake of the match and hesitated to clear the ball and S. Almartah neatly back heeled it past stranded Sangram in goalline, Kuwait SC went 1-0 up. In 21st minute, Marcos took a high cross that Baichung chest trapped the ball, ball went to Ishfaq but his shot went wide. In 31st minute, Barreto got a loose ball from midfield and passed the ball to Ishfaq who was unmarked but again he lacked finish and took a very poor shot. In 34th minute, Masih gave a long pass to Ishfaq in left flank who gave a pass inside box that went to Dipak who saw his shot roll agonizingly wide of the far post. In 37th minute, Mohun Bagan made a double change bringing on Lalkamal and Branco in place of Ishfaq and Barreto. Last 5 minutes of the match, Mohun Bagan could not create much chance and Kuwait SC kept possession of the ball among themselves. Tulunga and Vashan also got yellow card. Tulunga will miss next AFC Cup match as this is his 2nd yellow card in AFC cup.
After match in press conference, Karim said, "We controlled the game and had good possession of the ball but we didn’t penetrate enough. Their defence was extremely strong. I am very disappointed with the way we conceded the goal. In 1st half we were steady and played well but in 2nd half we could have defended a little better, we made few silly mistakes and gifted the goal." When asked about Dempo’s performance in AFC Cup, he said, "Dempo I feel is a very good quality team and experienced also. What Mohun Bagan lack is players with good International experience. In my team, of the Indian players other than Baichung none of the players have good International experience that is required very much in AFC Cup. Since our players lack experience, in last 15 minutes, they were playing more square passes which was not the need of the hour. I was urging them to go for direct pass." On Mohun Bagan’s chance in AFC Cup, coach said, "Our chance is now very tough, we will have to win the next 3 matches, only positive thing is that 2 teams will qualify from each group, let’s see what happens. Actually Middle East teams are very tough compared to South East teams and our group is the toughest, you can see this from prediction in AFC website also."
Kuwait coach on his assessment of the match said, "1st half was hard but 2nd half we played better, that free kick changed the match. We played with new team, lot of new players, and this was the 1st big match for many of them." He praised performance of Mohun Bagan and said Baichung and Ishfaq played well. On his team’s chance in AFC cup, he said, "We have a good chance now. I think if we get 3 points more, we will qualify for next round. I don’t wait for other’s results, I will have to win and assure my place in knock out stage."
Mohun Bagan have their next practice session on Thursday at 8.30 a.m. Meanwhile, it has been decided in a meeting held in New Delhi that all final round matches of I league will be held on April 16th. Mohun Bagan will play Mahindra United in Ambedkar Stadium, New Delhi. The Super Cup match is scheduled on April 26th.
TEAM: Sangram, Dipak, Odafe, Vashan, Habibur, Ishfaq (Lalkamal 82), Masih, Marcos, James Singh Sr. (Tulunga 59), Baichung, Barreto (Branco 82)
PICTURE: Soumyadeb Sinha
For more pictures of today’s match, see http://www.mohunbaganclub.com/gallery.php, pictures taken by Soumyadeb Sinha