Although the Mariners won, their midfield vulnerabilities were brought to the surface by the Orange Army. 

Mohun Bagan defeated NEROCA FC in a narrow 1-0 win at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday to move up to fifth place in the I-League table. The Mariners were second-best through most of the match, yet a stunner from Sony Norde gave them the vital goal to down the Orange Army. While NEROCA will feel undone by questionable officiating, luck wasn’t at their side as the Mariners ended their six-match unbeaten streak.

Here are the talking points for the game.

5. Are piling injuries ahead of derby a sign of concern for Khalid Jamil?

The Mariners were hit with another setback when influential midfielder Omar Elhussieny was stretched off the field in the second half. The Egyptian was struck in his shin with a powerful tackle, causing him to go down in pain. He limped off the field after being substituted, proving that this injury might be a long-term one.

Omar adds to the injury list which already comprises of players like Pintu Mahata, Sourav Das, Arijit Bagui and Sukhdev Singh. While some of these players might return in time for the clash against East Bengal on 27th, lack of match-fitness could be a worrying sign. Khalid Jamil hasn’t had the easiest start to his career as Mohun Bagan coach and has a huge task in front of him in order to achieve his first Kolkata derby win.

4. Did NEROCA neutralize Mohun Bagan’s midfield threat?

While NEROCA found it difficult to start the game on the up, the Orange Army soon attained dominance once they were adapted to the environment. The midfielders Aryn Williams and Saran Singh did a number on Mohun Bagan’s midfield comprising of Darren Caldeira and Yuta Kinowaki, who were extremely lacklustre.

The constant pressing from the midfield pivot of the Orange Army, smart tackles and impressive retaining of possession made the Mariners dog-tired after a point. While the Mariners regained some leverage in the middle after introducing Henry Kisekka later on, NEROCA maintained most of the possession.The huge gap in Mohun Bagan’s midfield, lack of aggressiveness and energy allowed the visitors to dominate proceedings and create the lions share of chances.

3. Is Shilton Paul back to his best?

Shilton Paul was Mohun Bagan’s saviour against NEROCA FC, coming to rescue his side from misery on multiple occasions. Shilton looked alert as ever in between the posts and endured the relentless attacking pressure from the Orange Army. He made a few stunning saves in the first half, keeping out Subhash Singh brilliantly, flying smartly to his right to tip over a thunderous shot.

Later on, the Mohun Bagan #1 made another spectacular save off Aryn Williams low shot to keep his side in the game. Despite a moment of madness in the second half, the keeper did well in making solid saves and earned his Hero of the Match trophy in the end.  


2. Was NEROCA feel robbed off by poor officiating?

NEROCA FC were arguably the better side for chunks of the game against Mohun Bagan, creating major chances with sleek attacking through their wings. However, a turning point of the match happened early in the second half. After Shilton Paul recovered a ball, Katsumi Yusa tried to divert his attention into making a mistake. Upon this, the goalkeeper became agitated and directly punched the Japanese in the face.

Thankfully for the Mariners, the officials couldn’t spot this and despite much protests from the players, no decision as given. While Paul could face retrospective action later on and possibly even miss the Kolkata Derby, NEROCA will feel undone by poor luck as they deserved to earn at least a point on the day.

1. Can lone warrior Sony Norde lead Mohun Bagan to Kolkata derby joy?

Sony Norde is almost like a one-man wrecking ball in Mohun Bagan’s attack, flooring teams with his wit and fantastic ability in the final third. Norde was the only spark of hope for Mohun Bagan in the attack against NEROCA in a day almost every other player failed to impress. He kept on pressurizing the Orange Army with his creative passes and created many chances. While Norde was marked tightly, he moved into the middle to gain possession and whisker ahead.

The Haitian took aim and hit a sweet attempt from outside the box, scoring the vital winner and sending the fans into raptures. Captain fantastic is the Mariners biggest ray of hope if they’re to win against East Bengal. He needs to be influential in creating chances with his stylish through-balls and score similar stunners to stun East Bengal. If the Mariners want to dampen East Bengal’s title run and boost their top-three push, Sony needs to be at his best.