ATK Mohun Bagan had fumbled in the AFC Cup inter-zonal semi-finals for two successive years. Mohun Bagan Super Giants stumbled in the group stage itself this season. Bagan’s dream of making a name for themselves in Asia ended in despair one more time, as they lost the must-win match against Odisha FC 5-2 at the Salt Lake Stadium on Monday.
Splurging money, mindlessly, does not get results. Bagan were shown that by Sergio Lobera’s Odisha FC. The visitors toyed with their rivals for most part of the match leaving the hosts shell-shocked.
Yes, Bagan missed four of their regular players — Anwar Ali, Manvir Singh, Dimitri Petratos and Ashique Kuruniyan — but the capitulation was beyond imagination. The defence was nowhere, the midfield pressed the panic button every time Odisha had the ball and the frontliners could only watch helplessly.
Of all the injured players, Bagan have been hit hard by Anwar’s absence. The 23-year-old has been a pillar of strength at the back and ever since he was sidelined — picking up an ankle injury against Bashundhara Kings on October 24 — Bagan’s defence has been leaking goals right, left and centre. In just three matches in all competitions, Juan Ferrando’s men have let in nine goals.
Knowing that they needed a win to stay in contention, Bagan began with a bang. Hugo Boumous scored in the 17th minute. But the equaliser came in the 29th minute through Roy Krishna, who used to be Bagan’s messiah till the summer of 2022. Three minutes later, Diego Mauricio made it 2-1 and in the 41st, Cy Goddard widened the lead.
After the change of ends, Bagan went all out. Three minutes after the hour mark, substitute Kiyan Nassiri reduced the margin with a bullet header. Buoyed by the goal, Bagan pressed for the equaliser and created a couple of chances.
Odisha’s fourth goal came in the second minute of the injury time. By that time, Bagan had thrown in the towel. Krishna’s free-kick from the right saw substitute Aniket Jadhav poking it home. The fifth came through Isaka Ralte seconds before the final whistle.
This was the first time Bagan conceded five goals under coach Ferrando.
Odisha FC, with nine points, can now advance to the knock-out round from Group D if they beat Bashundhara Kings in Bhubaneswar on December 11.
The Bangladesh club won at Maziya Sports and Recreation 2-1 earlier in the day. They now have 10 points. Bagan travel to Maldives for an inconsequential match against Maziya on the same day in an early kick-off.