ATK Mohun Bagan climbs to third place with a 2-1 win over Kerala Blasters
ATK Mohun Bagan finally ended their three-match winless streak in the 2022-23 Indian Super League season, as they handed Kerala Blasters a 2-1 defeat at the Salt Lake Stadium confirming their place in the playoffs with this win.
Carl McHugh scored a brace for the Mariners, while for the Tuskers, Dimitrios Diamantakos was the lone goal-scorer.
ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Juan Ferrando made four changes to the team that lost 0-1 against Hyderabad in the last match. Subhasish Bose, McHugh, Hugo Boumous, and Ashique Kuruniyan were handed starts, as Slavko Damjanovic, Puitea, Federico Gallego, and Liston Colaco dropped to the bench.
On the other hand, Kerala Blasters head coach Ivan Vukomanovic made a couple of tweaks to the team that lost against Bengaluru. Adrian Luna and Sahal Abdul Samad made way for Apostolos Giannou and Bryce Miranda respectively.
The Tuskers had a bright start and got their first chance in only the 2nd minute when Miranda made a darting run down the left flank before launching a cross, but Diamantakos could not keep his attempt on target.
ATK Mohun Bagan had their first chance just three minutes later. Trying to clear a long ball from the deep, Nishu Kumar ended up heading the ball into the path of Kuruniyan, who had only the Tuskers’ goal-keeper, Prabhsukhan Gill to beat. The winger did well to try a chip, but he could not find the target either.
Kerala Blasters kept on knocking at the door and had their second major opportunity in the 15th minute. From a free-kick, Miranda found Giannou who kept his header on target, but it was saved by the Mariners’ custodian, Vishal Kaith.
The pressure ultimately paid off as the home team’s defense was breached just a minute later. Ukrainian midfielder Ivan Kalyuzhnyi played a superb through ball for Giannou, but instead of going for glory himself, the Australian striker passed it into the feet of Diamantakos, who made no mistake in beating Kaith with his shot.
After going down, the Mariners upped the ante and they too got their goal soon after, in the 23rd minute of the match. From a free-kick, Dimitri Petratos launched a brilliant ball into the box and McHugh found himself completely unmarked. Getting a free header, the Irishman calmly guided his attempt past a helpless Gill.
The first half did not produce any more clear-cut chances, but the second half started with the Mariners getting a gilt-edged chance very early on. After making light work of Nishu, Petratos launched yet another dangerous cross and found Manvir Singh this time around. While Gill was beaten by the latter’s attempt, it struck the crossbar and stayed out.
Four minutes later, Manvir had another chance as he made a run down the right flank before drilling in a shot. However, Gill was up to the task this time around and kept his team in the game. Amid the attacks, physical battles continued everywhere on the pitch and as a by-product, Rahul KP ended up getting sent off in the 64th minute.
The Mariners almost took advantage of the numerical supremacy soon after as Manvir played a delightful ball for Kuruniyan, but despite having the entire goal gaping, the winger could not keep his attempt on target.
Thankfully for him, it did not matter much as the winning goal was scored just a few minutes later. In the 71st minute of the game, Asish Rai drilled a cross which found Manvir, and the latter then laid it off for McHugh. The midfielder had a sea of yellow shirts ahead of him but somehow managed to beat everyone, including Gill, with a powerful shot.
Five minutes later, the scoreline could easily have been made 3-1 as Rai’s pass found Petratos at the edge of the box. But having assisted a goal earlier, the Aussie could not keep his shot on target. Although the Tuskers tried all they could to get an equalizer, the last chance of the game fell to ATK Mohun Bagan yet again. Rai delivered another menacing cross, but this time, Gill was alert and made no mistake in reaching it before anyone in green and maroon could.
With this win, ATK Mohun Bagan climbed to third place with 31 points from 19 matches. They will end their league stage campaign with the Kolkata Derby against their arch-rivals, East Bengal next Saturday. Meanwhile, Kerala Blasters dropped to fifth place and will be up against Hyderabad next Sunday.