Mohun Bagan Super Giant head coach Antonio Lopez Habas is disappointed with his team’s second-half performance although they secured a prestigious Kolkata Derby win against East Bengal FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Sunday.

East Bengal FC made a strong start, earning a penalty just 12 minutes into the match when Mohun Bagan SG goalkeeper Vishal Kaith collided with Cleiton Silva inside the penalty area. Kaith quickly redeemed himself by saving Silva's spot-kick, maintaining a level score.

In the 27th minute, Dimitri Petratos unleashed a long-range shot that forced East Bengal FC's goalkeeper, Prabhsukhan Gill, to parry the ball directly to Jason Cummings, who capitalized on the opportunity to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead. The Mariners swiftly doubled their advantage at the 36-minute mark when Liston Colaco converted a low cross from Petratos, making it 2-0.

Just moments before halftime, Nandhakumar Sekar fouled Colaco in the East Bengal FC penalty box, granting Mohun Bagan SG a chance to extend their lead to 3-0, with Petratos calmly converting the penalty.

Despite Saul Crespo scoring his first ISL goal in the 53rd minute and reducing the deficit for East Bengal FC, the Mariners maintained control, securing a 3-1 victory until the final whistle and claiming all three points.

Kaith played a crucial role between the posts, showcasing his skills by saving a penalty and contributing three additional saves along with a clearance to thwart further scoring opportunities for the opposing team. The 27-year-old's performance was instrumental in preventing his team from conceding more goals.

While Habas refrained from labeling Kaith's save as a magical turning point in the match, he did acknowledge that the team improved after that pivotal moment. However, there was a lapse in concentration at the beginning of the second half, leading to the concession of the only goal scored by the opposition, which Habas was disappointed about.

Is it possible? To do magic (and turn the game around with one save)?” joked Habas in the post-match press conference. 

He continued, “We have one goalkeeper (Vishal Kaith), a very good goalkeeper. And we have to use our boys. A save, one penalty save. And after that, the team was a lot superior, know that for 45 minutes. And after that maybe overconfident in the first minute.”

Habas’ men attempted 12 shots compared to East Bengal FC’s nine attempts. The Mohun Bagan SG head coach believes his team could have scored more if they continued playing the same way they performed in the first half. 

Sharing his insights, Habas commented, “If you analyse the first half, maybe it was possible that you can think about the possibility to score more goals. But after the first 45 minutes, the scenery changed absolutely. And we had to defend. The idea was not to defend. We had to continue to press high, press the opponent. I don't know what happened.”

“I understand we have to improve, evidently, because I am here, and we are training the team for 45 days, two months. It's impossible to control everything,” he added.

Mohun Bagan SG currently occupy the top position in the points table with 36 points in 17 matches. They will now travel to Kerala to play Kerala Blasters FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on March 13. Following this, another crucial match that might also be the league decider will take place when the Mariners host Mumbai City FC on April 14. 

With the final stages of the league approaching faster than ever, the 66-year-old wants to focus on his team’s recovery. 

He stated, “We are in the moment. We are first in the league table. The team is good. No injured player, but we have to be patient. But you know, thinking about Mumbai City FC, thinking about now the next match in Kerala, we have to compete against Kerala Blasters FC and recover the team immediately because we don't have any time for recovery of the team.”

“We want to continue step by step, match to match, and not thinking about the final (league result). I don't want to talk about the final,” he signed off.