Bagan’s high, Hyderabad blues and other ISL trends | Football News - Hindustan Times
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Bagan’s high, Hyderabad blues and other ISL trends

ByDhiman Sarkar
Apr 16, 2024 11:26 PM IST

With Bagan’s turnaround, Habas led successful comeback of coaches.

Mohun Bagan Super Giant winning the league shield in the 10th season of Indian Super League (ISL) on the day they won the National Football League in 2002 was a coincidence. Like then, Mohun Bagan had to wait till the last round to see if they would be able to best the rest of India.

J Cummings and Petratos of Mohun Bagan SG celebrate after winning the match against Mumbai City FC and winning ISL Trophy at Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.(Hindustan Times)
J Cummings and Petratos of Mohun Bagan SG celebrate after winning the match against Mumbai City FC and winning ISL Trophy at Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.(Hindustan Times)

But that was an away game in Goa. What made the 2-1 win against Mumbai City FC rare – apart from it being Mohun Bagan's first in eight attempts – was 61,177 at Salt Lake stadium. Such turnouts are usually for the India team or the Mohun Bagan-East Bengal clash. Monday changed that.

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“This is what we want every game and not just special occasions. The supporters were great and helped Mohun Bagan today,” said Mumbai City FC coach Peter Kratky.

Equally rare, unique even, was the case of Hyderabad FC. In nearly three decades of all-India leagues – the National League, I-League and this – never has a club had to release so many players because salaries were not paid. Gurmeet Singh, Mohammed Yasir, Nikhil Poojary, Sahil Tavora, Chinglensana Singh, Hitesh Sharma, Nim Dorjee, and this list is by no means complete, started 23-24 with the champions of 21-22 but ended at other clubs because they weren’t paid on time and wanted to move.

Also Read | ISL League Shield: Liston Colaco and Jason Cummings goals seal Mohun Bagan's 2-1 win over Mumbai City FC

A two-transfer window ban means rebuilding will be difficult even if money comes in. It is a blot the season that saw coaches making a successful comebacks and the lack of Indian goalscorers as trends will have to live with.

Coaches comeback

“We were nine points behind Goa before the second leg started. But I remember what coach said… if you trust me in my work, we will win the championship. Look where we are now,” said Manuel Cascallana, Mohun Bagan’s assistant-coach on Monday.

Cascallana was referring to Antonio Lopez Habas. ISL’s most successful coach had unfinished business in the competition – not having won the league shield being denied by Mumbai City in 20-21. Months later, and not long after a 1-5 loss to the same team, Habas was sacked.

This term, Habas was appointed technical director to Juan Ferrando who had won the ISL trophy. When Mohun Bagan faltered in AFC Cup and brought that form into ISL, they swapped Ferrando for Habas. Barring the sucker-punch from Chennaiyin FC, Mohun Bagan didn’t lose in 12 games under Habas.

Crucial to that was the Spaniard asking for a fit-again Joni Kauko to be registered in place of Hugo Boumous. Kauko filled the hole in midfield Mohun Bagan had struggled with after Carl McHugh left but it is fitting that owners who have been the most consistent spenders in ISL wouldn’t baulk at benching a player of Boumous’ calibre with full wages.

Also returning were former ISL winners Sergio Lobera and Carles Cudrat. Lobera took Odisha FC to fourth, their best-ever finish, and Cudrat gave East Bengal a trophy (Super Cup) and a berth in Asia, and is building a roster for next term.

Goals, an Indian problem

Including eight Indians, 14 players scored Mohun Bagan’s 47 goals this season. But 28 of them came from the trio of Dimitri Petratos, Jason Cummings and Armando Sadiku. Petratos had 16 goal contributions this term and his 22 goals and 13 assists over two seasons have fetched his team an ISL trophy and the league shield.

No Indian in the top 10 of the scorers’ list continues to be bad news for the national team – Lallianzuala Chhangte and Vikram Partap Singh are best with seven – as is Manvir Singh and Liston Colaco playing wing-backs.

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