I-League: Mohun Bagan hosts in-form NEROCA FC

A win for NEROCA FC will mean the Imphal-based team will be equal on points with Chennai City FC, the top team in the points table.

Mohun Bagan head coach Khalid Jamil: “We have to do simple things and try to win the match.”   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Less than a fortnight after having suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of NEROCA FC, Mohun Bagan faces the same side, this time, at home.

In the interim, Bagan has had a change at the helm. Khalid Jamil has taken over as the head coach, replacing Shankarlal Chakraborty. Jamil has had a winning start, overseeing a 2-0 win over Minerva Punjab on Wednesday.

Defeating NEROCA, however, may not be easy. The side has had a six-match unbeaten run; in the last round of matches, it defeated Shillong Lajong 3-2 at home to be three points behind table-topper Chennai City FC.

NEROCA FC had been a strong side last season, too, finishing as the runner-up. The inclusion of Aryn Williams, Eduardo Ferreira and Katsumi Yusa in the team seems to have changed the mood of the camp as the side plays with more intent and confidence.

For Bagan, the clash against NEROCA will also be a prelude to its derby clash against East Bengal on January 27. The Mariners will be desperate to maintain their winning run before the high-voltage clash.

‘Have to do simple things’

Against Minerva Punjab, they looked a rejuvenated unit. Aser Dipanda Dicka regained his shooting boots in his comeback match. Captain Sony Norde looked a livewire in the midfield and created opportunities. “We have to carry on with the confidence from the last match. Everyone has to give 100 per cent. Have to make some changes as we have to play within two matches. We got the result we wanted in the last game. We have to do simple things and try to win the match,” Jamil said on Friday ahead of the contest.

Mohun Bagan won its first match under new coach Khalid Jamil when it defeated Minerva Punjab. Photo: AIFF Media


Jamil, however, cautioned its defence against the attacking prowess of NEROCA. “We have to be defensively strong. They are a good team. We have practised set-pieces. Players know NEROCA are good in set-pieces. So we have to do well. NEROCA have good foreigners and Indian players. They play as a team. Eduardo and Katsumi are great players. I don’t think about result. We have to start the matches positively and try to get results,” Jamil said.

‘A big match’

Manuel Retamero, NEROCA FC’s Spanish head coach, knows the importance of the team’s clash against Bagan. A win will mean it will be equal on points with Chennai City FC. “It’s a big match for both teams, especially for us. They are one of the biggest clubs in India. We are playing very well now; [we] have improved since [the] first game. We have to keep our momentum. They changed [their] coach and now they are more powerful. It is a very hard and tough match [on Saturday]. I hope we give our best and get the desired result,” the 45-year-old said.

Retamero was pleased to note that the team’s central defender, Eduardo, has come back strongly after recovering from injury; the Brazilian had scored the opening goal against Bagan in the first leg. “Now, he is playing like a 24-year-old. All the players are working hard. It’s not about the coach only but all the players in the squad,” he said.

‘Tough’ race

As the business end nears, the I-League table is crammed with any of top six teams in a mathematical equation to win the title. “It doesn’t matter when we play a team, now or later. This year, the title race is very tough. Chennai are there, [East Bengal] and [Mohun Bagan] are pressurising. [Real Kashmir] is there. We are fighting with big clubs. This season is very difficult,” he said.

Recalling his goal against Bagan, Eduardo said: “I was glad to score against big club like [Mohun Bagan]. [On Saturday,] we go again. I didn’t celebrate [in the] last game as I respect [Bagan]. But on the field, we will give our best and try to win.”

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