The Durand Cup 2022 action is coming to an end and the unified tournament has once again delivered a few stories to look back. It was for the first time that every ISL team participated in the prestigious tournament. Also, it is for the first time that there will be an all-ISL final encounter in the Cup competition.
As Bengaluru FC and Mumbai City FC vie to add a new trophy to their cabinet, we look back to Group B where there were three ISL teams but the attention was grabbed by a club formed not long ago. In what was a group where three teams tied in points, Rajasthan United edged ATK Mohun Bagan for the knockouts.
Level stage opportunities are for them only
Only in 2021, they became the first-ever Rajasthani club to get promoted to the I-League. By conceding only 8, they proved themselves to be the finest defence in terms of goals. They qualified for the Championship Round with 16 points, including a 2-0 win over Churchill Brothers. In its first-ever Durand Cup game, they defeated a money-jacked ATK Mohun Bagan to stun the entire fraternity. They qualified for the next round courtesy to this win against Juan Ferrando’s side which edged them over head-to-head.
The side’s greatest gift turned out to be the 17-year-old Gyamar Nikum. He scored a brace against ATK Mohun Bagan, scored the side’s only goal against Mumbai City FC and assisted Sergio Barboza Jr. for the goal against the Indian Navy that sent them through to the Quarters. Former NEUFC man Martin Chaves was electric as well. While at the back, Melroy Fernandes grabbed the attention.
Rajasthan United’s journey came to an end with a rain-soaked 3-1 loss against Hyderabad FC.
Questions to be answered
ATK Mohun Bagan, on the other tab, will have to enter the ISL 22-23 with lots of answers to find. While the loss against Rajasthan United became a headline, their unbearable loss to Kuala Lumpur City FC in the AFC Cup knockout became a nationwide problem. All three shots on target went past Vishal Kaith. Juan Ferrando’s first loss as the ATKMB coach came when the 13-match unbeaten streak came to an end in the Shield Clash. But the new season is posing a whole new challenge as they have lost Tiri, Roy Krishna, Amrinder Singh and David Williams. Supposedly, Manvir Singh is going to be their first-choice striker if Dimitar isn’t deployed as the #9.
Actually, the ‘problems’ couldn’t even be that big. They have some really nice names throughout their ranks, especially in the attack, as now they have added a player of Kuruniyan’s calibre. No number 9? May be no problem. There could be an obvious change of tactics on the board of Juan Ferrando and staffs. He can use Hugo Boumous as a false 9 as we have seen him doing it in the past, even in patches during the Durand Cup.
But there must be something that made them lose out to two really inferior teams at crucial stages. That may be the inability to break down the packed defences, or the inability to defend counters or may be just an unjustified team selection on few occassions.
Familiar Face, Familiar Outcome?
East Bengal suffered a Group Stage exit at the Durand Cup 2022. They had fielded their first team, only for the first game against Indian Navy that they didn’t have the service of the oversea players. It happened mostly because of the touchdown dates. East Bengal has signed the former Indian National Team Manager Stephen Constantine to coach the side. It’s great to have a former National Team coach in the league. The club, under the name of Emami East Bengal, made a few impressive signings in the name of Cleiton Silva, Aniket Jadhav, VP Suhair, Alex Lima and Ivan Gonzalez.
The team scored a total of zero goals against Rajasthan United and Indian Navy. The Derby resulted in a disappointment for them but the 4-3 win against Mumbai City FC was a showpiece. The side showed the same brand of football that Stephen Constantine’s sides have always shown – no real intent of possession and catch them on break. They bagged a total of five points to finish fourth in the group.
Talking player-wise, Cleiton Silva is once again stepping up for his side to make the forward line work. He scored a brilliant free-kick past the diving Nawaz to score the third for the locals. Young defender Lalchhungnunga was fantastic for the Red-and-Golds and showed in the competition that he can partner Ivan Gonzalez at the back. Winger Aniket Jadhav has subtly grown a lot in his mould lately, with statistics showing that he is currently the ablest Indian dribbler of all.
Since its inaugural participation in the Super League, East Bengal hasn’t seen itself finish above the bottom three on the table. The previous season, especially, was abysmal. Having only secured a single win and conceded double as much as scored, they finished with only 11 points – three off the next best position. In that case, the club would love to be uplifted and Constantine has been familiar to just that.