The Red Machines are currently third in the standings behind Chennai City and Real Kashmir.
Mohun Bagan continued their dreadful I-league run, followed by their humiliating derby loss as the visitors had to share the spoils with Churchill Brothers in a 1-1 stalemate. The draw has seen the Red Machines face a blow to their title hopes, having played two matches more than current leaders Chennai City and being three points adrift.
Things were looking grim for Petre Gigiu’s men as Dipanda Dicka broke the deadlock in the first half. However, substitute Anthony Wolfe stepped in and earned a penalty in the second half and salvaged some pride after dispatching the spot-kick. Here are our talking points from the game:
5. Did Richard Costa’s absence in midfield change the course of the match?
The midfielder has been a vital cog for Churchill this season. Costa has worked tirelessly in midfield throughout the campaign and has also complimented Khalid Aucho brilliantly. However, it was a huge blow for the Red Machines when the 27-year-old was stretchered off the field in the 17th minute of the match.
Churchill evidently lacked the penetration that they are known for and Aucho was left with too much to do all by himself. Costa has been a mainstay for this Churchill side and had he been there till the end, the result could have been different.
4. Did the two first-half changes prove to be the killer blow for Churchill Brothers?
The Red Machines probably had the worst possible start to the game in the first half, as Gigiu was forced to summon men from his bench twice, due to injuries to Costa and Hussein Eldor. Costa’s absence left a huge gap in midfield and Eldor’s absence in defence created chaos and miscommunication at the back. The Lebanese defender is a leader of men and is very reliable. It was after his departure that The Mariners broke the deadlock through Dicka.
The two changes early in the game left Gigiu with hardly any option to improvise. However, his only tactical change, Anthony Wolfe scored the equaliser for the Red Machines to just about keep them in the title hunt.
3. When will Mohun Bagan solve their midfield conundrum?
Mohun Bagan have been below par this season in almost all departments. But, their persistent problems in midfield are coming back to haunt them time and again. Khalid Jamil started with the experienced Mehtab Hossein and Omar Elhusseiny in a two-man midfield. Omar who is known to be a creative player who likes to play out wide or in a more attacking role, was clearly out of position and lacked the qualities of a proper holding midfielder. Whereas Mehtab Hossain, who is in the twilight of his career struggled to keep pace with his counterparts.
Yuta Kinowaki‘s absence was clearly felt and coach Khalid Jamil has clearly failed to find a proper replacement for the Japanese midfielder, who is currently sidelined due to injury. It seems like The Mariners are not learning from their mistakes and the results are visible.
2. Was this the last nail in the coffin for Churchill Brothers’ title hopes?
The Red Machines came into this fixture after losing to Shillong Lajong, which was a shocker to all the Indian football fans. However, Gigiu’s men were hoping to get back to winning ways against Bagan, but only managed a draw, leaving them three points behind leaders Chennai City FC, having played two matches more.
We still have a fair distance to travel to decide a clear winner, but it can be said that the Red Machines have now fallen off the radar. Gigiu’s men have to win their remaining three fixtures and will have to hope and pray that other results go their way.
2. Was this Sony Norde’s worst performance in Mohun Bagan colours?
There was a lot of hype when the Haitian winger rejoined Mohun Bagan. The fans were excited to see their favourite player back in Kolkata donning their colours. However, things have not gone as per plan for Sony Norde, as he has managed to be a mere reflection of his former self. However, the team has not helped his cause either, but apart from goals here and there, it has been a pretty silent season for the Haitian.
Even in this game he was lacklustre and looked a little bit tired. He lost possession time and again, which is uncharacteristic of him. Adding to that, none of his set-pieces threatened the Churchill defence. Even his first touch let him down on several occasions. The poor run of form for The Mariners has affected the players mentally and Norde seems to be the latest victim.