Mohun Bagan Super Giant held their nerves as they earned a 3-1 comeback win against Bangladesh side Abahani Limited Dhaka in the AFC Cup 2023-24 south zone playoff clash at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, in Kolkata, on Tuesday.

Cornelius Stewart put Abahani Dhaka ahead before Jason Cummings equalised from the spot. The Mariners took the lead in the second half after an own goal from Milad Sheikh Soleimani before Armando Sadiku scored another one two minutes later. Reflecting on the result, Mohun Bagan SG head coach Juan Ferrando said that they made plenty of changes to their plan in the second half which resulted in their success. 

“We changed a lot of details in the second half and talked about our plan. We knew it would be difficult because some players joined without proper training and we had problems in the last moment as well. But I’m happy because the players played like they wanted to be in the group stages and we had the success,” Ferrando said in the post-match press conference.

Having made it to the AFC Cup group stage for a third straight season, the Mariners will now turn their attention to the quarter-finals of the Durand Cup. Mohun Bagan SG will take on Mumbai City FC in a one-legged knockout clash, with the winner advancing to the semi-final. However, Ferrando stated his team is still far away from reaching their peak fitness.

“We can’t really tell you how many matches we’ll need to be fully fit. The target of the entire team is to improve with every match,” he explained. “Obviously, we are now at 50% and need to improve a lot. We are in different competitions – CFL, Durand Cup and AFC Cup, and some are joining the national team. So, I hope with every passing day and training session the team can improve. When we decide the line-ups going forward, hopefully, we’ll have a more fit team.”

We controlled the game better in the second half: Cummings

Goalscorer Cummings was delighted with the result after a hard-fought win for Mohun Bagan SG. The Australian scored his second goal in as many games, having also scored in the preliminary round two clash against Machhindra FC.

“I’m always happy to score a goal. It was an important one at that time of the match. The most important thing was to get the win and go through to the group stages. We controlled the game better in the second half,” Cummings stated in the post-match press conference.

He also spoke about what team talk the coach gave at half-time to spark the second half performance.

Cummings also revealed how the half-time talk from Ferrando inspired the team to put up a better performance in the second half.

“In the first half, we weren’t at our best. We got the penalty that gave us a lifeline. I was happy to score the goal to get us back into the game. We need to work hard, press harder and the coach told us that we needed to do more, keep the ball better and press better. We kept control of the ball, moved it side to side and created more chances. We scored twice in the second half and got a great win,” he said.