PLAYING A SECOND string team in their AFC Cup fixture, Mohun Bagan paid a heavy price today when Maziya of Maldives defeated them by a massive 5-2 margin.
The Mariners, playing their first match since losing the I-League title to Aizawl FC on Sunday, rested 7 of their first team players in this match, including their star winger Sony Norde. The Green and Maroon started the match well but once Habeeb scored against the run of play 13 minutes into the match everything came apart.
Mohun Bagan found it hard to keep Maziya's counter attacks in check. Raju Gaikwad looked especially helpless as he was simply outrun for most of the game. The home team kept scoring in regular intervals, and by the time half-time whistle was blown, they were 3-0 up thanks to strikes from Umair and Rakic.
At the start of the second half Mohun Bagan showed some spirit. Kingshuk Debnath got an early goal in the 48th minute. But they conceded a penalty soon afterwards, and Asadhulla converted from the spot. At the hour mark, Rakic scored his second goal as goalkeeper Pawan Kumar looked helpless under the crossbar.
After this the Mariners managed to clamp down and limit the damage for the final third of the game. Jeje Lalpekhlua converted a penalty late in the game, making the final score 5-2.
This demoralising defeat can be seen as yet another instance of Mohun Bagan prioritizing domestic competitions over AFC Cup. It seems like a conscious decision made by the team management to play mostly reserves with only one foreigner - Katsumi Yusa - in the starting line-up. The club may have to play 5 matches within 9 days as they juggle the Federation Cup and AFC Cup commitments this month, and what today's match has exposed is that they do not have a reliable bench strength to hold them together during this congested calendar.
After 3 losses in 4 matches, Mohun Bagan are on just 3 points and placed third in the group. They now stand no chance to make it to the next round of the continental tournament as only one club is allowed to progress from this group.
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