Defending champions Mohun Bagan Super Giant kickstart start their ISL 2023-24 campaign with a 3-1 win against Punjab

Mohun Bagan Super Giant forward Jason Cummings celebrates after scoring in his ISL debut

Aussie forwards Dimitri Petratos and Jason Cummings struck in the first half as Mohun Bagan Super Giant beat Punjab 3-1 in their ISL 2023-24 encounter at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium in Kolkata on Saturday. Manvir Singh and Luka Majcen found their names in the scoresheet in the second half. 

Mohun Bagan coach Juan Ferrando fielded his side in a 3-5-2 side with Vishal Kaith donning the gloves while Brendan Hamill, Hector Yuste, and Anwar Ali played as the three defenders. Glan Martins, Sahal Abdul Samad, and Liston Colaco played in the middle of the park while Subhasish Bose and Asish Rai attacked from the flanks. Jason Cummings and Dimitri Petratos led the line from the front. 

Punjab fielded themselves in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Nepal’s Kiran Chemjong guarding the sticks. Mohammed Salah, Khaiminthang Lhungdim, Dimitrios Chatziiasis, and Nikhil Prabhu played as the back four with Juan Mera and Ashis Pradhan deployed as the two defensive midfielders. France’s Madih Talal made his ISL debut in the attacking midfielder role alongside Brandon Vanlalremdika and Prasanth K. Luka Majcen wore the captain’s armband and played as the lone striker.  

Mohun Bagan wasted little time and took the lead in the 10th minute. Ashish Rai cut back the ball towards the centre and Sahal laid it towards an onrushing Cummings. The former Central Coast Mariners striker slotted the ball home from point-blank range to hand the home side the lead. 

Punjab’s first chance came in the 26th minute when Juan Mera floated a dangerous-looking ball from a free kick. Nikhil Prabhu found himself at the end of the cross but couldn’t control the ball in a proper manner. 

Prabhu lost the ball cheaply four minutes later which resulted in Martins feeding the ball towards Petratos. The latter passed the ball towards his Australian teammate Cummings who went for glory but Lhungdim replied with a vital block. 

Cummings freed up Liston at the far post in the 35th minute and with Chemjong closing him down, the Indian international smartly backheeled the ball towards Petratos. With an empty goal gaping at him, Petratos fired the ball into the net to make it 2-0 for Mohun Bagan. 

In the dying embers of the first half, Petratos lobbed in a swinging cross and Yuste who stayed up drilled the ball low and hard. But, Chemjong positioned himself perfectly to parry away the danger. 

Luka Majcen became Punjab’s first goalscorer in ISL

Asish Rai found the back of the net in the 49th minute after the teams switched sides but the referee pulled the game back because of a foul committed by Sahal. A costly error from Glan Martins in his own half resulted in Luka Majcen finding the ball in a one-on-one situation with Kaith. Although the Mohun Bagan custodian tried his best to narrow down the gap, Majcen was too strong for Kaith in the end and slammed the ball home. 

Ashish Pradhan almost equalized for Punjab as his header found the net. But, the linesman raised his flag for offside in the 61st minute. Just after replacing Subhasish Bose in the 64th minute, Manvir Singh scored with his first touch. Petratos drilled a low cross and Manvir was at the receiving end of it to angle the ball past the keeper.

Punjab’s substitute Krishnananda Singh went for glory from outside the box with no man closing him down. However, his shot was way above the crossbar in the 72nd minute. Sahal was a menace in the opposition midfield and released Asish through on the right flank. However, the latter’s cross was wayward and found no one in the end in the 78th minute. 

Mohun Bagan substitutes Hugo Boumous, Manvir Singh, and Armando Sadiku combined well to create an opportunity in the 81st minute. But, in the end, Punjab players intercepted the pass and the ball went out for a corner kick. 

Sadiku ran out of patience five minutes later and unleashed a shot from a considerable distance which went straight to the hands of the goalkeeper. Punjab substitute Ricky Shabong floated a ball towards Majcen who laid it towards Ashish Pradhan. The latter was unable to trouble Kaith as his shot was off target in the stoppage time of the second half. 

Mohun Bagan SG is making the most of the momentum they gained by winning the Durand Cup as they not only defeated Odisha in their AFC Cup encounter but picked up three points against Punjab in their ISL curtain raiser. 

The newly promoted side got a rude shock to the taste of top-tier football but they would like to put behind this loss when they face off against Goa on next Monday. On the other hand, MBSG faces the challenge of Bengaluru on Wednesday before they get ready for another AFC Cup tie against Maziya.