Basundhara Kings down Mohun Bagan Super Giant to make things interesting in Group D
The race to the pole position of the 2023-24 AFC Cup Group D was further spiced up on Tuesday as Bangladeshi outfit Basundhara Kings pulled off a major shock by defeating the most formidable team of the group, Mohun Bagan Super Giant.
Miguel Figueira and Robinho were the two scores for the hosts in a 2-1 victory, while for the Mariners, Liston Colaco was the only player who could get his name on the scoresheet on Tuesday evening at the Basundhara Kings Arena in Dhaka.
The Kings came into this match on the back of a spirited performance in India, where they held Mohun Bagan Super Giant to a 2-2 stalemate. Hence quite unsurprisingly, their Spanish coach Oscar Bruzon decided not to make any changes to the team.
On the other hand, Mohun Bagan Super Giant’s coach Juan Ferrando made plenty of changes to his name. One of them was a forced one, as central defender Anwar Ali was unavailable after sustaining an injury and was replaced by the experienced Subhasish Bose.
Besides that, Anirudh Thapa, Manvir Singh, and Armando Sadiku returned to the starting XI as the trio of Glan Martins, Asish Rai and Dimitri Petratos were benched with the Australian striker surprisingly not introduced at any point in the match.
The game had a rather cagey start with both sets of players getting in a scuffle after barely a few minutes. It was the away team who had their first chance through Manvir who got the space to pull the trigger but could only find the side-netting 5 minutes into the match.
A couple of minutes later, it was the Kings’ turn to show they were no pushovers. Brazilian striker Dori, who has been in sublime form, tried his luck but had his attempt saved by Vishal Kaith.
Six minutes later, fellow Brazilian and former Fluminense striker Robinho tried finding the net from distance, but his effort was narrowly wide. But those early attacks did not pay off, as against the run of play, the Mariners scored in the 17th minute of the game.
Jason Cummings made a darting run down the left flank before launching a grounded cross. Despite two defenders chasing it, the Kings’ goalkeeper Mehedi Hasan Srabon decided to take matters into his own hands and ended up making a mess, as Colaco found himself through on goal and had no trouble in finding the back of the empty net.
Basundhara could have equalized just four minutes later when midfielder Jean Brossou found Dori in space with a superb pass, but he blasted his shot wide. A few minutes later, it was the Mariners’ turn to miss a chance. The provider for the first goal, Cummins tried to get his name on the scoresheet, but Srabon made amends by making a fine save.
It seemed certain that MBSG would go into the break with a lead but Figueira restored parity in the 44th minute out of nowhere. After receiving a pass from Rakib Hossain, the Brazilian midfielder made a perfect Cryuff turn before launching a left-footed shot which beat Kaith to make the scoreline 1-1.
That goal did a world of good to Bruzon’s team, who had a confident start to the second half. Just five minutes into the half, Figueira had another great attempt which was saved by Kaith and the rebound fell to Robinho who struck the woodwork with his attempt.
The Mariners had a rare second-half chance in the 57th minute when Hugo Boumous nearly found the target with his effort.
In the 73rd minute, Figueira completely outclassed Ferrando’s side and nearly got a brace for himself with his attempt, but this time, he was not as precise as before.
The miss did not matter much as the Kings finally scored the winner in the 80th minute of the game. Brossou won the ball for the Kings in the midfield before finding Dori with a delightful pass.
The striker had every reason to go for the goal himself, but instead, he chose to display his selfless side by squaring it for Robinho, who had the simplest of tasks to tuck the ball into an empty net and give his team the crucial lead.
The next few minutes saw MBSG throwing the kitchen sink at the Kings but to no avail as the Kings closed the encounter at the 2-1 scoreline sealing three crucial points.
With this win, Basundhara Kings have snatched the first position from Mohun Bagan. While both teams have 7 points to their name, head-to-head points work as the tie-breaker in this competition, where the Kings have a 4-3 lead over the two legs.
Earlier in the day, Odisha staged a spectacular comeback defeating Maziya S&RC after conceding two goals in the first half. Mourtada Fall, Diego Mauricio, and Roy Krishna scored three goals for the Kalinga Warriors to rise to 6 points and keep their hopes for the inter-zonal semi-final stage alive.
Bruzon’s men will now meet Maldives’ Maziya at home on 27th November while Ferrando’s men will be up against fellow ISL side, Odisha later on the same date.