Mohun Bagan Super Giant added another silverware to their trophy cabinet having won the Indian Super League (ISL) Cup last season as they beat arch-rivals East Bengal FC 1-0 in Kolkata in the Durand Cup 2023 final. 

The Mariners became the most successful team in Durand Cup history with their 17th triumph in the competition as they edged East Bengal FC, who fell short on the night. 

Juan Ferrando’s men faced four ISL opponents on their way to glory and managed to get the better of all four teams. They did suffer a defeat at the hands of East Bengal FC in the group stage but that loss would now be forgotten and they will look ahead to the ISL season with a lot of belief. 

As the dust settles on a remarkable victory for Mohun Bagan Super Giant, we take a look at key takeaways from their successful campaign.

Strong team character comes to the fore

Juan Ferrando’s men overcame a stiff challenge in last season’s ISL to win the Cup. They had to do it the hard way after beating Hyderabad FC (semi-final) and Bengaluru FC (final) on penalties after closely-fought encounters. Even before qualifying for the knockouts, they had a series of must-win games in order for them to qualify and they produced the goods in those matches. 

It was a similar story in the Durand Cup where the Mariners faced three quality oppositions in the knockout stage and came out on top against each of them. The first hurdle was as much a mental one as a technical one as they faced last season’s League Shield winners Mumbai City FC, a team they had never beaten in their history. But they put the mental hoodoo behind and produced a commanding performance in a 3-1 win. 

The semi-final against Manolo Marquez’s FC Goa became a complicated affair when they conceded first, but MBSG’s powers of recovery were on show again as they mounted a comeback against one of the strongest teams in the competition to win the semi-final in regulation time. 

The final was an even bigger test of character as they were reduced to ten men with one third of the game still to play in a Kolkata derby final. But the red card galvanised the Mariners who absorbed the pressure and struck against the run of play to record a famous victory. It was a difficult ask for Mohun Bagan Super Giant after going down to ten men having already lost to East Bengal FC once in the competition before. 

“I’m happy that the team showed character and that everyone wanted to help the team. These are the basic things for us to start clicking from pre-season. A happy-dressing groom is much better than working tactically for 1,000 hours,” Ferrando said after the game.

“We changed some tactical aspects, but the energy of this team is brilliant. Last season, this team showed big character and won the ISL trophy. The character of this team is incredible,” he added. 

Nine different goalscorers

One of Mohun Bagan Super Giant’s problems last season was over-dependency on Dimitri Petratos and Hugo Boumous to create and score goals. The two players scored 17 out of the 28 goals that the Mariners netted last season in the ISL, which accounted for almost 61% of the total goals.

However, the Durand Cup campaign saw a different trend much to the delight of Ferrando and the Mohun Bagan Super Giant fans. The Kolkata Giants scored 13 goals during the campaign, but had nine different goalscorers. Both Indian and foreign players contributed to the goals with new signing Jason Cummings and Manvir Singh top-scoring for the team with two goals each. 

All their key attackers – Petratos, Boumous, Liston Colaco, Armando Sadiku, Kiyan Nassiri, got on the score sheet which bodes well for the ISL season. 

Anwar Ali, Mohun Bagan Super Giant’s new gem

There were many top individual performances in Mohun Bagan Super Giant’s Durand Cup run but one that especially stood out for his impeccable consistency was Anwar Ali. Signed during the summer, Ali has slotted in the Mariners defence effortlessly and seems very much at home. 

The 23-year-old showed a glimpse of his quality and fearlessness when he made a perfectly-timed tackle in the final to deny Nandhakumar Sekar early on in the first half. It set the tone for the rest of the evening as East Bengal FC attackers couldn’t match the composure of Ali. 

He also made his presence felt at the other end when he scored the team’s third goal in the semi-final against Mumbai City FC. 

The former FC Goa defender has already cemented his place in the Indian national team and has laid an early foundation to stake a claim on his spot in Mohun Bagan Super Giant's starting eleven. 

“He is among the top three central defenders in India. He can help in the build-up,” the Ferrando had said of the centre-back last month. He knows that in Anwar Ali, he and Mohun Bagan Super Giant have a real gem.