ATK Mohun Bagan emerged victorious over SC East Bengal in the first Kolkata Derby of the ISL, courtesy second-half goals from Roy Krishna and Manvir Singh. Two wins from as many matches put the defending champions on top of the standings. For the Red and Gold brigade, their ISL sojourn began with a disappointing loss.
Prior to the historic contest, SCEB coach and Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler made it clear that his team would be massive underdogs due to their last-minute entry into the league and a curtailed pre-season. While his players tried hard, the gulf in class shone through.
"It was our first game together and we didn't have a pre-season game, which showed. In terms of performance, it wasn't that bad. It's tough with the squad we got and we were the last team to put a squad together. We will go again," Fowler said.
ATKMB's Antonio Habas' game plan worked to perfection. He let the opposition have possession, but never allowed them to carve any real openings. So far, ATKMB have scored thrice, haven't conceded and they are looking strong. "I think the team had a good performance. We were better than the opponents and I have to congratulate my team for that," Habas said post match.
While the first half was one of attrition, Fijian Krishna broke the deadlock with a rasping left footer from the edge of the box. Debjit Majumder dived to his left but the ball had too much power for the custodian. With a one-goal lead, Habas asked his men to sit back and the second goal was from a lightning counterattack finished brilliantly by Manvir. The only performance of note from East Bengal came from Anthony Pilkington, while the others struggled to create.
East Bengal's Indian contingent is not the strongest on paper and that showed, with Fowler making only three substitutions. He also admitted that they are in the market for a striker and with the games coming thick and fast, the players need to get over this loss as quickly as possible ahead of their next game against Mumbai City FC. ATKMB will face Odisha FC, hoping to carry on in the same vein.