Boumous stars as Bagan boss Bengaluru FC
On a midweek afternoon in an Indian Ocean island that is a tourist hotspot, Hugo Boumous and ATK Mohun Bagan laid down a marker for the Indian football season. And possibly for this South Asia zone group in the AFC Cup though Basundhara Kings and Maziya Sports and Recreation could have something to say about that. But both clubs would know that Bengaluru FC have the best record in the competition among this quartet and at the National Football Stadium in Male they were swatted away.
Boumous took an early free-kick but the first time he really imposed himself was in the 21st minute when he beat Suresh Wangjam and went wide of Bengaluru FC’s new central defensive pairing of Alan Costa and Yrondu Musavu-King. His shot was saved by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and maybe a pass to Manvir Singh who was better placed would have suited Bagan better. But in four prior seasons in India, three of them with FC Goa before winning the Indian Super League with Mumbai City FC, Boumous has shown enough ability to justify going solo.
Ten minutes later, Boumous took Lenny Rodrigues’ pass and after a dribble found Roy Krishna with a long ball. Krishna cut inside past Wangjam and tried to find Singh, but with Sandhu out of position, the ball didn’t go to feet. But Boumous had arrived from deep in his own half to give it a go. A desperate Sandhu stretched a leg out to yield another corner-kick.
The next time that happened, Bagan were in front. Again it was Rodrigues who had set the move going, finding Singh and forcing new Bengaluru FC left back Roshan Singh into conceding a corner-kick which Boumous took. Subhasish Bose headed it goalwards but it was Krishna, played onside by Wangjam, who deflected it beyond Sandhu.
If a 39th minute goal can mess up the half-time talk, one in the first minute of resumption can feel like a sucker punch. Bengaluru FC coach Marco Pezzaiouli had got Danish Farooq on at the start of the second half but before the former Real Kashmir attacking player got his first touch, he was marking Bose who, surprisingly for a left wing back, was in an area usually owned by Krishna. But the way Bose shielded David Williams’ pass and fired a left-footer past Sandhu would have pleased Krishna who now has 30 goals since 2019-20. This was Bose’s first goal for ATK Mohun Bagan since joining last season.
From winning fouls to playing the No. 10, Boumous did enough in 72 minutes on Wednesday to show that he could reproduce the form of 2019-20 when he had 10 goals and 11 assists. Another debutant Deepak Tangri too did well in central midfield, helping Rodrigues stave off pressure on the back three. Tangri has moved from Chennaiyin FC and a good shift would help him settle into the role often played by Pronay Halder, who has been released. Sandesh Jhingan too has been released to help him make a career in Croatian top flight and young Sumit Rathi, who had slipped in the pecking order, took his place along with the versatile, left-footed Carl McHugh and Pritam Kotal.
That Sunil Chhetri could be kept quiet—and substituted in the 67th minute—and that Cleiton Silva couldn’t test Amrinder Singh in goal before and after a 52nd minute effort showed that like last season ATK Mohun Bagan are difficult to break down. It didn’t help that Udanta Singh couldn’t use the width of the pitch and that Farooq, used in more advanced areas by his former club, didn’t look comfortable playing in front of the defence.
With a new coach, Bengaluru FC are rebuilding and like ATK Mohun Bagan have made a clutch of new signings. The difference between the teams was that those in green and maroon looked better bedded-in despite this being their season opener.
"The heat and very dry pitch made conditions difficult. This was our first match in over four months and I am happy with the commitment shown by the players, " said ATK Mohun Bagan coach Antonio Lopez Habas.