Indian Super League: Derby stroll surprises ATK Mohun Bagan coach Antonio Lopez Habas
ATK Mohun Bagan coach Antonio Lopez Habas did not expect SC East Bengal to surrender in the first 23 minutes during the ISL VIII Derby at the Tilak Maidan in Vasco on Saturday. ATK Mohun Bagan ran their arch-rivals ragged in a dominating display of speed and skill, winning 3-0.
“No, I didn’t expect such an easy match. Football sometimes becomes unpredictable and surprises you. Yesterday (Saturday) was one such day. However, I must say our preparations for the game paid off,” Habas, who recorded a hat-trick of Derby wins, told The Telegraph on Sunday.
When asked if this season ATK Mohun Bagan would aim for the League Winners’ Shield which will see them earn a berth on AFC Champions League, the Spaniard said: “I am not thinking about Winners’ Shield and all. We are taking one match at a time. The Derby is done and dusted. Now the focus is on our next match.” The runners-up of last season will face reigning champions Mumbai City on Wednesday in Fatorda.
Habas lavished praise on Joni Kauko, the Finnish international who tormented SC East Bengal and was rightly adjudged man of the match. “He is a complete player. A great professional and a very important part in our scheme of things.”
After Liston Colaco made it 3-0 for ATK Mohun Bagan, there was a feeling that Habas’s men would go for the magical 5-0 margin. Habas said he didn’t rue the fact that his team could not score more. “It’s easy to say that we could not score more. What happens is once you lead 3-0, you tend to relax a bit unconsciously. But I am happy that the boys showed intensity till the final whistle.”
Colaco, who scored on his Derby debut, said it was a dream come true moment for him. “From childhood I was dreaming of scoring a goal in the Derby. I dedicate this goal to all the ATK Mohun Bagan fans. Now we will get ready for the Mumbai City match.”
Manvir Singh said scoring in the Derby gives a different feeling. “I have scored again in the Derby. We played better than what dished out against Kerala Blasters. That gives a big satisfaction. Yes people are saying we could have scored more but to us three points is the main target, not the margin.”
SC East Bengal goalkeeper and captain Arindam Bhattacharya’s performance on Saturday drew a lot of flak. Bhattacharya was a bundle of nerves till he was replaced by young goalkeeper Suvam Sen. Bhattacharya injured his knee while bungling with the ball that allowed Coalco to score and a MRI was done on Sunday to ascertain the extent of the damage. He is doubtful for Tuesday’s match against Odisha FC.
One former India footballer, who did not wish to be quoted, said SC East Bengal coach Jose Manuel Diaz’s failure to choose the right Indian players cost them dear.
“I think he (Diaz) got the wrong first eleven on Saturday. Hira Mondal should have played in place of Bikash Jairu and rookie Lalrinlian Hnamte should not have got a start. He is still learning. How can the coach throw him into the cauldron? The first two goals conceded was because of Jairu’s mistakes and the third was a horrific howler by Arindam. The sooner the coach gets his Indian players right, the better it will be for SC East Bengal,” he said.