The Islanders clashed against the Mariners in a fiery 1-1 draw at the Fatorda on Thursday. The match also saw our new January signings get some minutes under the belt.
Three changes were made in the line-up since our last game. Diego Mauricio, Rahul Bheke and Mandar Rao Dessai came in for Brad Inman, Amey Ranawade and Vignesh D. On the other hand, Ferrando only switched out Prabir Das, for Ashutosh Mehta.
The game started with either side tussling for the ball, looking to stamp their authority with their respective style of play. What ensued was a scrappy and bewildering show of direct, frenetic football.
ATK Mohun Bagan took the lead in the 8th minute, in a manner most fans will relate to last years final game. David Williams got on to the scoresheet, after Mumbai lost the ball cheaply right outside our own box. The Aussie applied the finish, and wheeled away with glee.
The pressure from the game was evident, as players from either side were booked only 10 minutes after the first goal. Ahmed Jahouh picked up his 5th yellow for arguing with the referee, and Hugo Boumous went into the book for pulling Vikram’s shirt.
Once again, just like last year’s final, it was an own goal that gave us parity. It was the 23rd minute, when Bipin received the ball on the wing and looked to cross it in. Pritam Kotal tried to clear it, but the ball came off his head and went right into his own goal.
The team grew into the game steadily after getting a goal back. The chances started coming more often, and closer to the opposition’s box. First, it was Cassio who laid the ball off to Bipin deftly. The shot followed, and we earned a corner from there.
Ahmed Jahouh swung one in, and the Green-Maroons failed to clear their lines. The ball bobbled with uncertainty and Rahul Bheke looked to make the most of it. The #2 tried to power it past Amrinder, but the ball was too close to the ‘keeper.
Just a minute later, it was our goalie who was called into action. Boumous controlled a faulty clearance, and fed the ball to Manvir. He pulled the trigger, and Nawaz got down well to make a finger-tip save.
In the 34th minute, Rahul Bheke received a yellow card for a rash challenge.
ATKMB got close to scoring through this free-kick. Liston Colaco looked to go direct, but his shot was deflected by the wall. Fortuitously, the ball looped over the defense and fell to Williams who was in an offside position. He dove to head it past Nawaz, but was denied by the post.
The Aussie popped up once again, and this time it was right towards the end of the half. He unleashed one of his trade-mark long rangers, but our custodian was equal to it.
The second half opened with our first substitution of the game – Igor Angulo came on for Diego Mauricio.
El Matador made an instant impact, getting his first shot of the game in less than 10 minutes after being subbed on. Jahouh launched a long ball into the box, and our striker peeled away from his marker to find space at the back post. He tried to guide it into the far corner with his head, but his attempt was wide and over.
Angulo came up once again, this time playing the role of creator. He dropped deep to receive the ball, and delivered a cross to Cassio. Unfortunately, the Brazilian’s effort was wide.
Bipin also joined the party, by getting his own shots off. In the 57th minute, our Flash latched on to a poor back-pass and ran at the defense. He beat one player and made his way into the box, but his shot was blocked well by Ashutosh Mehta.
Lallianzuala Chhangte also made his debut in our threads, when he came on for Vikram Partap just short of the hour mark.
Much like Angulo, it didn’t take the youngster long to find his feet. He showed his prowess in the 78th minute by carrying the ball into the opposition half and linking play with the frontline. He fed Cassio out wide, and made a run into the box. Our #7 returned the favour with a short cross, which Chhangte headed backwards to find Angulo. The striker got his head to it and generated power too, but the shot was too close to Amrinder and ended up being saved.
ATKMB reacted strongly, and proceeded to take the game to our half for a good few minutes. They probed deep and wide, but our defense stayed resilient and snuffed out any signs of danger.
The final few minutes also saw Vinit Rai come on for Ahmed Jahouh and Brad Inman take Cassio’s place on the pitch.
Both teams were desperate to get a goal till the end, but the scoreline remained 1-1.
Our next game is an away game against Chennaiyin on the 6th of February. This too will be at the Fatorda. As it stands, we are 6th on the table with 19 points from 13 games.