Preview: ATK Mohun Bagan look to beat Maziya Sports & Recreation and strengthen AFC Cup inter-zone semi-final chances
ATK Mohun Bagan will look to move a step closer to the AFC Cup inter-zone semi-final with a win against Maldives’ Maziya Sports & Recreation in Saturday’s second Group D South Zone game at the National Football Stadium in Male.
The Mariners beat fellow Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) side Bengaluru FC 2-0 in their opening game on Wednesday. Despite having been away from competitive football for more than five months – last they played against Mumbai City FC in the 2020-21 Hero ISL final on March 13 earlier this year – the Green and Maroon hit the ground running and looked in fine form against the Blues with goals from Roy Krishna and Subhasish Bose showing them the way.
Maziya Sports & Recreation, on the other hand, suffered a 2-0 defeat against Bashundhara Kings from Bangladesh in their opener and are now in a must-win situation. A defeat on Saturday will be the end of the road for them in the continental club competition.
Antonio Lopez Habas’ men go into the contest as favourites on the basis of a stronger squad on paper, however, it won’t be an easy outing for them by any means. It was Maziya Sports & Recreation who had shown 2018/19 Hero ISL champions and 2016 AFC Cup finalists Bengaluru FC the door last year in the play-off match-up. Prior to that, they also have good results to speak of against Mohun Bagan AC before the latter joined hands with ATK FC to become ATK Mohun Bagan ahead of the 2020-21 Hero ISL.
Despite Maziya Sports & Recreation’s record against Indian clubs in the recent past, the presence of Krishna, David Williams, Carl McHugh and Hugo Boumous is quite reassuring from an ATK Mohun Bagan point of view. Boumous particularly impressed on his debut for the Mariners and troubled the Blues on several occasions on Wednesday. It was his corner that was headed goalwards by an unmarked Bose before Krishna nodded home the Indian defender’s effort to put the Kolkata-based side in the lead. Bose’s goal seconds into the second half was a sight to behold as he pounced on a pass from Williams and spun in a flash in the box to use his left foot to good effect past a diving Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in goal.
Maziya Sports & Recreation also boast some solid names particularly in winger Cornelius Stewart – last season’s top-scorer with 11 goals in the Dhivehi Premier League in the Maldives – and midfielder Hamza Mohamed. Put simply, ATK Mohun Bagan’s backline need to be wary of them; any complacency could be the undoing of them, and they will also do well to remember that Maziya are playing at home and are desperate for a win.
“We are going from match to match, and we have another opponent waiting. It’s the same idea to give absolute respect to the opponent and we will need to develop our football on the pitch. In football, you could have one bad day or situation that could change the outcome. We need to be playing with high concentration throughout the 90 minutes with 100 percent. We know how they played with other teams but we have to see how they will perform against us because they might play differently with a different behaviour,” Habas said ahead of the game.
Meanwhile, Maziya head coach Risto Vidakovic said: “I’ve talked to the players, and we know that we didn’t play our best game. We were too nervous, especially in the first half. After the first goal, the team was more nervous. It’s not easy to be two goals down and turn everything around as it’s too much pressure.
“But that game is in the past, and we have to focus on the future. We have another game tomorrow; another opportunity and we are going for it. The important thing is to recover. The games are too close, especially after three months of not having played competitively, so it’s hard.
“We have to focus for tomorrow, we are facing a very strong team but nobody is unbeatable, so we have to be strong and go to fight. We are not expecting anything special, but we are going to fight and give our 100 percent. It all depends on tomorrow, but we are going in without pressure. We know that we have a chance, but we have to play a perfect game.”
ATK Mohun Bagan squad: Arindam Bhattacharja, Amrinder Singh, Pritam Kotal, Lenny Rodrigues, Subhasish Bose, Avilash Paul, Ashutosh Mehta, Liston Colaco, Manvir Singh, Deepak Tangri, Sumit Rathi, SK Sahil, Bidyananda Singh, Abhishek Suryavanshi, Kiyan Nassiri Giri, N Engson Singh, Ricky John Shabong, Roy Krishna and Carl McHugh, David Williams, Hugo Boumous
Kick-off time: 9:30 pm (IST)
Live telecast: Star Sports Network
Streaming: Disney+ Hotstar VIP and JioTV
(Please note that Star Sports 3 will have Bengali commentary in West Bengal and Malayalam commentary in Kerala)