Antonio Habas version 2.0 has proven to be the most effective and ruthless incarnation of Mohun Bagan Super Giant in the history of the Indian Super League (ISL). The Spaniard was called back mid-season to revive a faltering campaign that was under the management of ex-boss Juan Ferrando. The team didn't perform to expectations in both the AFC Cup and the ISL which led to the end of the former FC Goa head coach.

Mohun Bagan SG since then have found their way back to the top of the ISL 2023-24 season points table, already earning silverware once, since his return, toppling Petr Kratky’s Mumbai City FC in the final game of the regular season to claim this season's Shield glory off the hands of the Islanders. 

Senor Habas and his team are on a roll, with no signs of slowing down. They have their sights set on winning the next prize, ISL 2023-24 Cup. In the semi-finals, they outperformed Odisha FC and Sergio Lobera, subsequently becoming the first team to qualify for the finals

So Let's dive in, track back, and retrace the Mariners' journey to this season's ISL Cup final. 

Strong start against newcomers

The ISL 2023-24 season for the Mariners commenced with a match against newcomers Punjab FC at Salt Lake in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 28,000 spectatorsThe Mariners, with their experienced players, won the match in style with a final score of 3-1. They used an improvised 3-4-3 formation and took home all three points on Saturday, September 23, 2023.


On December 20, 2023, the two biggest teams in the Indian Super League (ISL), Mumbai City FC and Mohun Bagan SG, The Shield winnera and the Cup winners from last season faced off against each other at the Mumbai Football Arena on a calm and peaceful Christmassy evening. However, the match was anything but serene. It was a high-octane continent-shifting, no-prisoners-taken ordeal with both teams playing for their zeal and honour, resulting in one of the highest recorded tallies of fouls, cards, and reprimands in the history of the ISL. A total of seven red cards were shown in the game.

The Mariners started with a 4-2-3-1 formation before switching to a more flexible formation after two of their players were sent off. At the end of injury time, Mumbai City FC emerged as the winners of the night, sending the Mariners home with a 2-1 loss, ending their unbeaten start to the season.

Bad momentum 

On December 23, 2023, the Mariners played against FC Goa at the Salt Lake Stadium. This match was highly anticipated as they were facing the in-form table-toppers. However, the Mariners had just come off a devastating clash against Mumbai City FC, which resulted in many key players missing the match. It reflected in their performance.

The match did not go as expected for the Mariners, and they lost by a margin of three goals at home in front of thirty thousand fans. The team employed a 3-4-1-2 formation but had to make multiple changes to their starting lineup due to the aftermath of their previous outing. The final score was Mohun Bagan SG 1-4 FC Goa.

First Kolkata derby 

It's always exciting when Mohun Bagan SG matches up against their closest neighbours and fiercest rival, Carles Cuadrat's East Bengal FC. Keeping with tradition, the first Kolkata derby of the season was not disappointing for all football enthusiasts without a divide. With a huge and excited crowd of 58,000 laying witness, but the same can't be said for the home side, Antonio Habas's Mohun Bagan SG, who could only manage to hold on to a draw.

On Sat February 3, 2024, the Mariners played a 4-4-1-1 formation, conceding first, early on in the start, and then having had to dig deep to usher the game off to a 2-2 draw in the last few minutes of regular time. 

Sweet restitution, second Kolkata derby 

Derby Day, Sunday, Mar 10, 2024, was the much-awaited reverse fixture of the first Kolkata derby. In the first game, both teams were left sharing the spoils at the Salt Lake stadium. This time it was all Mohun Bagan Super Giant who were standing in third as they took on the 10th-placed Red and Gold Brigade. 

The Mariners got off to an excellent start, with a beautiful penalty save, followed by the opening goal of the game to grab the lead. A confident one-two pass tap-in goal by the Mariners' forwards gave them a two-goal lead and a first-half injury-time penalty conversion saw Mohun Bagan SG sealing the deal, conceding just once in the second-half to win 1-3 at full-time. 

Goals galore at Kochi

The last time the Mariners took on the Blasters this season, it saw Mohun Bagan SG's ex-coach Juan Ferrando getting axed after their defeat and paved the way for the return of their current head coach. Habas chose to play a more creative 3-4-2-1 against the Blasters at Kochi, which proved wise as they took the lead very early in the initial minutes of the gameThis set the phase for the rest of the night, with 25-thousands spectators on looking and turning the pressure on the away side, the Mariners managed to hold on to the lead at the end of first-half. 

It was the second half that saw the Blasters equalise before Habas shifted gears. The Mariners scored three more goals in the second half and conceded thrice, which meant at the final whistle it was Habas and his armada left standing tall at the shores of Kochi with a 3-4 victory on Mar 13, 2024.

Win from a mile away 

Mohun Bagan SG has had a good track record against the southern club Bengaluru FC in the 2023-24 seasonHammering a dominant double over the Blues, with a five-goal advantage. The best of the two victories by a massive mile was the 0-4 win at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore on Apr 11, 2024.

Habas led the Mariners with a highly defensive yet fluid 5-3-2, which helped them keep a clean sheet while flooding the opponent's net, scoring all four goals before the 60-minute mark.

The Shield decider 

On Apr 15, 2024, it all came down to the Mariners and the Islanders for this year's league shield decider. Both teams heading into the match with unequal odds, Mumbai City FC needing just a point to clinch the Shield while the Mariners requiring all three points, to lift the Shield. 

The match started with Mohun Bagan SG scoring two stunning goals at the Salt Lake. Mumbai looked desperately for a draw to clinch the Shield with their first goal of the night coming in the last few minutes of regulation timeIn the end, it was the Mariners who got redemption for their reverse fixture loss, winning 2-1 at the end of the night and lifting the coveted ISL Shield for the first time, after the longest-ever ISL season yet.

Semi-Finals vs the Juggernauts 

First-leg of the Semi-final between the Shield winners and the fourth-placed Odisha FC led by Sergio Lobera was at the Kalinga Stadium, home of the Kalinga Warriors, who stayed unbeaten at home this season. 

Both contenders fought neck and neck, with the Mariners scoring from a set-piece free header during the start of the match to score the opener. Odisha FC quickly came from behind from another set-piece to score the equaliser at the 10-minute mark. The Juggernauts took the lead during the first half to get ahead of the Mariners and managed to see through the game as it was, to bag a one-goal aggregate advantage. 

The second leg of the semi-final got underway at the Salt Lake Stadium on April 23rd, 2024. Mohun Bagan SG went into the match with a deficit of one goal. Habas ensured that the team played the second leg with real urgency, scoring early. They dominated proceedings but had to wait till the dying minutes to score the second goal and win the tie 3-2 on aggregate, qualifying for the ISL 2023-24 final against Mumbai City FC, in a re-run of the ISL Shield decider.