The tale behind the upswing – Liston Colaco


23-year-old sensation Liston Colaco has hit the ground running for ATK Mohun Bagan with unabashed bluster and bravado in the 2021/22 season of the Indian Super League. The winger has notched up five goals and one assist in just eight games, quickly establishing himself as one of the most vaunted names in Indian Football.

In his last game, the ex FC Goa man rifled a shot into his former team’s net with impeccable technique and precision. The strike, recorded as the sixth fastest in the history of the game (181 km/h, dethroning David Beckham from the spot), richly encapsulates the form that the prodigy finds himself in.

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Colaco after scoring against FC Goa

In this article, we at IFTWC try to delve deep into the crucial factors that have led to this coming of age of one of the most promising prospects of Indian Football – Liston Colaco.

A shift of flanks

At Hyderabad FC, Liston operated largely as a right-winger in Manolo Marquez’s 4-2-3-1 setup with Halicharan Narzary on the left flank and Aridane Santana as the traditional no.9. He registered 2 goals and 3 assists in the league in 2020/21.

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Liston had a breakout campaign for Hyderabad FC last season

After joining the Mariners, Antonio Habas slotted him into his 3-4-2-1 as the left wing-back, a position he had never played in before. While going forward, ATK Mohun Bagan attacked with 5 forwards, allowing Liston to cut inside from the left on his favored right foot. He scored in the opening two games, against an unsettled Kerala Blasters FC and a disjointed SC East Bengal.

He transitioned fluidly to the left-wing role after Ferrando took the reins from Habas, who resigned after a string of poor results. There has been no looking back for the youngster as his exploits are there for everyone to see and admire since then.

Comparing Colaco’s stats from 2021/22 to 2020/21

Liston’s shots per game have increased from 1.8 to 2.8 this season, shots on target per game have increased to 1.1 from 0.5. He averages a goal in 109 minutes now, compared to one in 577 minutes last season. His goal conversion has also improved exponentially to 23% from 6% last season.

The change of flanks is the biggest factor in his augmentation of shots and goals. It allows him to pounce on through balls and diagonal balls and make his way towards the goal, creating space for himself to shoot.

Liston’s dribble success has reduced marginally from 42% to 39% this season. From winning 51% of the ground duels, he has only won 37% this year. He has also been more wasteful in possession, losing the ball 10.9 times per game this campaign compared to 8.9 times in the previous ISL.

This is an interesting observation as he is clearly more comfortable in carrying the ball forward from the right channel. However, as the season progresses and the youngster evolves further in his new position, we will witness more of his well-known beguiling and unpredictable self, keeping the ball longer.

(Stats taken from SofaScore)

Roy Krishna

Roy Krishna‘s natural goalscoring capacity often overshadows his adroit playmaking ability. He has played a crucial part in Liston Colaco’s rise, assisting 3 of his 5 goals so far. The Davorlim-born man has been feasting on Krishna’s crosses, through balls and lay-offs this season.

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Roy Krishna (L) and Liston Colaco (R)

Roy Krishna operated in a strike partnership with David Williams in the last two seasons; with ATK in 2019/20 and ATKMB in 2020/21 under the tutelage of Habas. Habas’ 3-5-2 would often shift to an abstract 3-4-3 with Soosairaj a part of the front 3 for ATK and Manvir for ATKMB.

Roy has an instinct of picking out his fellow wingers, he combined with Manvir Singh for 4 goals last season in the ISL. Krishna has been a shadow of his former self in a solo striker role despite his 4 goals but is relishing a more adventurous role where he can drop deep and find Colaco or Manvir on the flanks with delectable through balls.

Krishna’s average shots per game have reduced from 2.9 per game to 2.5 per game. He has created 3 big chances already this season compared to just 1 in the entirety of the league stage last year. He has also matched his last campaign’s tally of 4 assists in the league stage, 3 of which have found the man from Goa.

(Stats taken from SofaScore)

What next for Colaco under Ferrando?

Habas’ ATKMB was a transitional and reactive side. They waited for their opponents to make the first move before pouncing on the counter and applying the veritable heel to the neck.

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Juan Ferrando in training (Third from Left)

Ferrando’s footballing vision is poles apart. For the former Sheriff boss, ball possession is the name of the game. In Ferrando’s first year in India, his side FC Goa had the highest average possession% (62%) per game among all the ISL sides.

It will be a tough task for the Spaniard to turn things around tactically. We have seen an imprint of his style in his first two games in charge. The more defensive Carl McHugh started in place of the box-to-box midfielder Kauko in a double pivot with Tangri. Fullbacks Subhasish Bose and Ashutosh Mehta have been venturing forward a lot too, something Saviour Gama and Seriton Fernandes did consistently at Goa.

So what does this mean for Colaco? Most of the goals he has scored have come immediately after his team has regained possession. While that is how a lot of goals are scored in modern football, Ferrando belongs to the school of controlling a game, pressing high, suffocating the opposition, and creating clear-cut chances in the attacking third.

That is how all the top sides in world football play now – the Chelseas, Liverpools, and Bayerns. It will be quite the test for Liston Colaco to adjust to the style but given his age and willingness to learn, it shouldn’t be a big headache.

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Colaco in training

It’s been the perfect start to life for Liston Colaco for the Green and Maroon brigade and there is no reason as to why his purple patch should end anytime soon. With a lot of lurches for other clubs in the erratic ISL table, Colaco will look to stamp his authority in the upcoming game against Hyderabad FC, his former side. This win could take ATKMB to the top of the table and Colaco one step closer to his very first ISL shield.

The expectations are sky-high for this gifted lad and we cannot wait to see how his career unfolds!

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