The Mariners sealed their first success under the new coach with victory against the defending champions.
Mohun Bagan got back to winning ways in the I-League, defeating Minerva Punjab 2-0 at the Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday. Goals from Omar Elhussieny and Aser Dipanda Dicka in both halves allowed the Mariners to start life under new head coach Khalid Jamil in a bright manner. Here are our talking points from the game:
5. Can Omar Elhussieny find inspired form under the new system?
Elhussieny thrived in his central role and even scored a goal
Omar Elhussieny finally scored his first goal for Mohun Bagan, a penalty in the first half. However, the composed manner in which he took the goal showed that he was a man with a point to prove. Thriving in a central role, Omar fed many impressive passes forward, even helping Dipanda Dicka go through on goal early on. His creativity was on-point and he finally looks synchronized with the side.
Omar had a brilliant chance to double his tally, when he cleverly found space inside the box and struck a powerful attempt that was saved well by Bhaskar. The Egyptian won the Hero of the Match for his inspired display, something which will give him even more confidence into becoming a quintessential clog in Jamil’s attack.
4. Did Minerva Punjab’s overly conservative defensive system backfire?
Lacking in quality attacking players, Paul Munster was forced to play an ultra-defensive system on Wednesday. He seemed to set his side up in a 5-3-2 formation, even more cautious than they were in their inspired win against East Bengal earlier in the season. Punjab cramped bodies back, but the inexperience of their defenders to this system caused problems.
The Mariners took their time in deconstructing their defensive movements and clever balls from Omar and Sony Norde broke open their defence. Poorly-timed tackles from their own experienced defenders didn’t help, leading to a clumsy penalty for the hosts. Another defensive error led to an easy finish for Dicka, as the Warriors dug their own grave on Wednesday.
3. Sony Norde still the go-to man for The Mariners
A New Mohun Bagan. The same Sony Norde. The Mariners captain has been in inspired form since returning from injury and sustained the momentum he gained from the game against Real Kashmir. Norde has started playing more freely than he did under former Mariners tactician Shankarlal Chakraborty, as Jamil has given him the license to take on defenders. However, the creative side of the Haitian was on show against Minerva.
He roamed on the wings incisively and was always on the lookout for the killer pass. He sliced open Minerva’s rigid defence with two amazing passes in both halves to send Dicka through on goal.
2. Was William Opoku missed in Minerva Punjab’s attack?
Opoku was certainly missed by his teammates, as his absence could be felt
After picking up an injury during the loss to Churchill Brothers, William Opoku was ruled out Minerva’s game against the Mariners. He’ll be missing a few weeks of football, which can spell trouble for the Warriors. Opoku was already missed on Wednesday, with the lack of his pacy presence making Minerva’s attack look very tame.
He had scored the winner the last time the defending champions visited the Salt Lake Stadium, but his electric nature was sorely missed to spark counter-attacks for the Warriors. Minerva are seriously lacking in attacking options as they prepare for the AFC Champions League.
1. Can Khalid Jamil guide Mohun Bagan to a top-three finish?
Mohun Bagan finally got back to winning ways after falling to NEROCA FC and Real Kashmir, defeats which effectively ended their title aspirations. However, these defeats also hindered their chances of finishing in the top three, something they’ve consistently achieved over the better part of the decade. Jamil, returning to management after months of being inactive, has a difficult job on his hands.
The former Aizawl coach needs to restore their reputation as a top team by at least helping them make the top-three come March. While Bagan can only get better from here, commendable defending and incisive attacking moves proved they should attain consistency under Jamil. The Mariners might not play the most “beautiful football” under Jamil, but the experienced gaffer seems to have already inserted a winning mentality into the team, which could help them make a late surge in the second half.