After 8 long months sporting action finally resumed in India with the 7th season of the ISL kicking off in Bambolim, Goa with ATK Mohun Bagan making their much-anticipated debut in the league against the Kerala Blasters. A clash up between two coaches who tasted success in India last season, Kibu Vicuña won the I-League while Antonio Lopez Habas went on to win the ISL. It was going to be a cagey affair, where two tactical genius tried to outwit each other and Habas took home the bragging rights as ATK Mohun Bagan went on to win the opening encounter 1 -0.
With Kerala keeping the lions share of possession to themselves, playing more number of passes, they managed 12 shots, unfortunately, none of them was on target. ATK Mohun Bagan depended on a solid defence and fast counter-attacking football, which has been Habas’ go-to style of play. With just 32% of ball possession, the Mariners managed to have 8 attempts on goal, with only 2 being on target including the Roy Krishna strike which eventually turned out to be the winner. Krishna set Manvir Singh, who had come on as a substitute, through down the wings and Manvir’s cross hit the Blasters captain Sergio Cidoncha on the head and feel kindly on Roy Krishna’s path and the Fiji International’s first-time strike beat Albino Gomes in goal. ATK Mohun Bagan went on to defend their lead comfortably against a potent Blasters attack which simply failed to unlock the Mariners defence manned by Tiri and former Blasters man Sandesh Jhingan.
Let’s take a look as to how both sets of players fared on our scorecard as we rate both sides based on their performances on the opening day of ISL season 7.
ATK Mohun Bagan
Arindam Bhattacharya : 7.5/10
Arindam would have hoped he would have much to do as he faced a certain Gary Hooper who has scored in the Premier League, but Hooper had a quiet night and Arindam had very little to do as the Blasters failed to manage a single shot on target. Arindam was his vocal self, guiding his defender throughout the game and thwarting away any potential threats to his goal.
Pritam Kotal : 8/10
Pritam Kotal got to lead his boyhood club out on their big night and had a brilliant game in a 3 man defence. Donning the captain’s armband, Pritam was almost impeccable with this defensive performance barring a few hiccups.
Tiri : 8.5/10
Tiri and Sandesh were playing together for the first time and while each is great individually, football fans were curious to know if they can forge a formidable partnership and boy they didn’t disappoint. They kept a clean sheet and Tiri who made the short journey from Jamshedpur back to Kolkata, continued from where he had left off.
Sandesh Jhingan : 8.5/10
Sandesh Jhingan joining ATK Mohun Bagan has been one of the biggest news of the summer transfer window. Jhingan made a comeback to competitive football after missing out entirely last season. His first game back in action and Sandesh was looking fitter than ever and had an immense presence in the Mariners defence managing a clean sheet in his first game back.
Prabir Das : 8/10
Prabir Das once again had a great game down the right-wing. Playing as a wing-back for Habas, Prabir has been nothing short of excellent. Sprinting up and down the wings, Prabir performed his defensive duties as well caused problems in the Blasters defence
Pronay Halder : 6/10
Pronay was deployed as holding midfielder to disrupt the opposition play and he did an okay job at it. While his distribution could have been better, his rash tackling could have very well earned him a red card, he was lucky to escape with a yellow. His physical approach to the game did cause problems for the Blasters attack, but one expects a whole lot better from him.
Carl McHugh : 8.5/10
With Pronay doing most of the dirty work, McHugh got to be a bit more adventurous today while not forgetting his defensive responsibilities. Playing more as a Central Midfielder rather than a Holding Midfield player, Mchugh impressed with his long-range passing and was instrumental in breaking up Kerala’s attacking progress. He could have registered his name on the scoresheet but his header from an Edu Garcia corner was just wide.
Javi Hernandez : 7.5/10
Playing in a midfield that comprised of McHugh and Pronay, Javi had to be the creative head. Also with Edu Garcia playing almost as a second striker the lion share of the movement upfront was orchestrated by Javi Hernandez. He would have loved to have an assist to his name but he has shown some glimpses of promise that will make the Mariners faithful happy.
Subhasish Bose : 7.5/10
Subhasish was not part of the starting line up but an injury to Soosairaj in the 14th minute meant Subhasish had to fill in. It was a like for like change and Subhasish who was once again donning the green and maroon jersey had a decent outing. Playing as a wing-back and being a defender inherently, Bose was very good defensively and his pressing did cause disruptions in the Blasters passing flow. His game going forward could have been better.
Edu Garcia : 8.5/10
Generally an Attacking Midfielder, Habas played Edu as a second striker against the Blasters and the Spaniard was more than up for the job. He covered most ground than anyone and was sprinting up and down the pitch to help his side out in defence and while attacking. ATK Mohun Bagan’s number 10 was everywhere from clearing the ball, to taking shots on goal, to delivering set-pieces.
Roy Krishna : 9/10
Roy Krishna once again proved why he is one of the most prolific strikers in the Indian Super League. Grabbing his first goal for the Mariners, Krishna made up for the chances he missed out on in the first half. He was a constant threat on the Blasters defence and kept Costa and Kone on their toes. He could have very well scored more but he would be ecstatic that his goal got his side their first-ever win in the ISL.