Even for a team with Mohamed Salah playing out of position at left-back, the start of the ISL campaign against Mohun Bagan was always going to be a major test of strength. Punjab FC won the I-League outright with 52 points – the first team in 10 seasons to break the 50-point mark – winning 16 of 22 matches and losing only two.
But that wasn’t it. The team easily conceded space and possession and looked soft on the Salt Lake Stadium field. That allowed Petratos to walk freely and Liston Colaco to find the form that deserted him last season.
In a season where Ashik Kuruniyan is unlikely to be available due to injury, Kolako’s return to form is exactly what Mohun Bagan needs.
There will be tougher tests, but Colaco’s turnaround to help Petratos score his second goal after he got in time to Cummings’ clever pass, a strong run down the left flank that soon ended with the Goan probelieved goa.Kiran Limbu, who stepped into the left-back position after Mohun Bagan replaced Subhasish Bose with Manveer Singh, will be the reason for fewer creases on coach Juan Ferrando’s perpetually frowning forehead. Ferrando said on Friday that he had faith in Colaco. The faith was expressed on the field.
By the 35th minute, Mohun Bagan led 2-0 and Hector Yuste could have added a third goal on the stroke of halftime. This was in marked contrast to the tentative start to last season when the team let the lead slip and lost 1-2 to Chennaiyin FC. Cummings put the team ahead in the 10th minute after Glan Martins, Ashish Rai and Sahal Abdul Samad combined to provide the Australian with just a goal.
Punjab added to their lead early in the second half and were rewarded with a Maicen goal, which came from a momentary lapse by Martins, perhaps overlooking the Slovenian, who spent three seasons in the I-League, including 16 goals for Punjab last season, before parroting theA chance in the top echelon. In the 53rd minute, Meissen grabbed a reverse pass from
Martins, and in the 61st minute, Prasanth Karuthadatkuni looked to level the score with a header from a Juan Mera free kick, but assistant referee Christopher Peter deemed him offside. In the 63rd minute, two minutes after entering the field,
Manveer restored normal play with a deft flick after a well-timed pass. Samad found himself in the middle of things, passing through the center and finding Petratos on the left. By the time Petratos, the second Australian in Mohun Bagan’s line-up with Brendan Hamill in the third, picked up, Manvir was already running into the area, showing his striker’s instincts. Indian head coach Igor Stimac, who is now fighting for survival in the Asian Games, would be happy considering all his international affairs this season.
Since Anirudh Thapa was suspended for a red card in the Durand Cup final, Mohun Bagan started the game with Martins and Sathe madom at the center. WitMartins is comfortable in defense, something Thapa often can’t do – he plays further up the Indian park and has been in that position in all his seasons at Chennaiyin FC – Samad could move up and finished the evening with a pass and assist for the third goal, holding out against two opposition.