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Trying to stay at Mohun Bagan for another season, says Antonio Habas after defeat in ISL final

Published at :May 4, 2024 at 11:27 PM
Modified at :May 4, 2024 at 11:28 PM
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(Courtesy : ISL Media)

Uttiyo Sarkar

Antonio Habas also asserted that he wants to end his career in India.

Mohun Bagan suffered a disappointing 3-1 loss to Mumbai City FC in the final of the 2023-24 Indian Super League at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata on May 4. Despite taking the lead through Jason Cummings in the first half, three second-half goals from Jorge Pereyra Diaz, Bipin Singh and Jakub Vojtus sunk the Mariners’ hopes of a domestic treble.

Habas praises Mumbai for their win

Antonio Habas was disappointed with the loss but gave full credit to Mumbai in how they ousted the Mariners with their pressing and intensity. He stated: “We were winning the match, but we were never superior to the opponent. I think Mumbai were better in the first half than in the second. Congratulations to Mumbai, we played our plan – but we had a lot of problems due to their high pressing.

“They played simple and played very easily, we didn’t have the opportunity to press them from the start. That was a key factor in the match. We gave them too many chances to allow them to create moves from defence to attack, we had to press more. We never defend in our line of box normally, but this result is a merit to the opponent also,” he added.

Schedule issues and defensive problems

Habas also indicated that the tough schedule before this game could’ve resulted in this loss, revealing: “You have to understand that we have played five finals continuously. It started from the Punjab match, the Bengaluru match, the Mumbai match (Shield winning game) alongside the semi-finals and now this one too. Maybe we’ve played in too many finals to win in this match. Congratulations to them, they deserved the score and we need to continue working and take good decisions. Today, the lack of good decisions determined the results. Today, if we attacked, we failed to defend and if we defended, we failed to attack on the transitions. This is the problem for me.”

He refused to talk much about the defensive issues leading to the goals, explaining: “Not the defence, when you lose a match, it’s on the entire team. The problem is that we didn’t press in their defensive line, we couldn’t press Tiri, Thaer Krouma or Apuia. And if you defend near your box, you have that problem. We had Manvir and Liston in the wide areas but with no defensive shape.”

Anirudh Thapa’s performance and message for fans

He also refused to point to Anirudh Thapa’s performance either, remarking: “We played Thapa in three positions in the match, he played as a centre-midfielder, as a playmaker and then in a deeper area too. We are looking for positions to stop their build-up of the opponent. For me, Thapa had a good match – but after 75 minutes we needed energy to attack and that’s why he had to be taken off for Sahal. It was about the different dynamics when you need goals. In the last match, the change concerning Thapa to Sahal was perfect – and today it wasn’t. This is football.”

When asked to give a message for the fans, he remarked: “I’m disappointed for them, because we wanted to say goodbyes to the supporters today with a victory. In football, it’s impossible that you can choose when you win or lose and today, my players kept fighting until the end but I think psychologically they played in too many games. They’re tired mentally today.”

Armando Sadiku’s absence made an impact?

Antonio Habas also feels that the suspended Armando Sadiku could’ve helped Mohun Bagan be more intense in attack, as he stated: “Sadiku plays a bit more aggressively and has the ability to press more and today we lacked that. But we can’t change history; he is suspended and that happened today. He is more aggressive than Jason and that could have helped today.”

Refusal to blame individual and plans for next season

Antonio Habas also refused to point towards any particular player when questioned on Joni Kauko’s underwhelming effort. He mentioned: “I don’t want to identify one player’s performance or another. It’s impossible to judge if Joni didn’t run as much as the others. We normally play much higher than usual and today we needed to be more compact than we were.”

Finally, the mentor insisted that he wants to remain as the Mohun Bagan head coach for another season. He revealed: “My plan for the next season is that I’m talking with the club to continue for the next season. I spoke last day in a press conference of a different opinion.

“I want to close my career in India, but it’s not like I want to go immediately after the final. Now I’m trying to talk for the possibility to sign for another season. But I want to finish my coaching career in India,” he concluded.

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