ATKMB made history on Friday, November 27, 2020, when they outlasted city rivals SCEB in the very first Kolkata derby (SC East Bengal vs ATK Mohun Bagan) of the Indian Super League 2020-21 season, thanks to the second-half goals from Roy Krishna and Manvir Singh.
The win took ATKMB to the top of the ISL 2020-21 points table as the Kolkata giants maintained a 100 per cent win record in their first two matches of the season. However, Friday’s match revealed much more than ATKMB’s grit and tenacity; it showed how Antonio Habas’ men are a well-oiled machine where every part is fully aware of their functions.
THERE’S ONLY ONE ROY KRISHNA
The dominance of Bengaluru FC with Erik Paartalu in their midfield was evident as the team remained prime title contenders in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 ISL seasons. To fight fire with fire, clubs needed similar reinforcements from the A-League and the buying of Roy Krishna was a byproduct of the same.
However, what many could not comprehend at that time was just how good the signing would turn out to be. After churning out 15 goals last season, the Fijian international has wasted no time in regaining his form despite the barrenness for the past months.
SC East Bengal defenders would be kicking themselves for letting Krishna have three touches at the edge of their penalty box, which is more than sufficient for a striker of his calibre to get the ball past any goalkeeper. However, Krishna’s goal tally often overshadows his off the ball contributions. His heavily built android like-figure rushing at any defence will be a threat, no matter what the intent is.
METHOD TO HABAS’ MADNESS
ATKMB’s playing stats against SCEB were like their clash against Kerala Blasters in the season-opener. East Bengal had 68% possession to ATKMB’s 32% and had 15 shots on target against ATKMB’s 12. Robbie Fowler’s men were also allowed to make 280 more passes than their opponents, which painted the picture that ATKMB weren’t dominating the game at all. However, Antonio Habas has won the ISL twice and he knows a thing or two about winning this league.
The Spaniard started the match with a 3-5-2 with Carl McHugh dropping off to help Tiri, Pritam Kotal and Sandesh Jhingan when East Bengal pressed high. While it made East Bengal players like Ville Matti Steinmann, Anthony Pilkington, and Jacques Maghoma seemingly dangerous, ATKMB players knew their defence was watertight. Last night’s ‘Hero’ of the match was deservedly McHugh for his exceptional reading of the game that kept ATKMB strikers filled with fuel even when on the backfoot.
The second half was always going to ATKMB’s and players like Krishna, Javi Hernandez and Jayesh Rane caught East Bengal players off-guard on multiple occasions that led to the two winning goals.
ATKMB NOT JUST FLEXING FINANCIAL MUSCLE
When ATKMB looked at their squad last summer, there were not many reasons to make changes to an already set core of players. While few fixes were needed at the back – after youngsters like Ankit Mukherjee and Sumit Rathi were needed shoulder load at the end of last season – many thought that the management ended up with a heavy squad just because they had the financial resources to do so.
However, Manvir Singh’s goal last night has managed to change that perception to a large extent. The 25-year-old Indian striker is one of the very few potential options that Igor Stimac has up top in replacing an ageing Sunil Chhetri. After a semi-impressive season with FC Goa last season, where the likes of Hugo Boumous and Ferran Corominas overshadowed Manvir, his move to ATKMB’s grand team was deemed regressive by many.
But, his impressive work rate on the right flank – which involved winning the ball, outrunning his marker, cutting inside and then finding the top corner of the net – has made it evidently clear that India have goalscoring talents at hand. And ATKMB know exactly whom to shell out their money on.
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