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It was expected to be a battle of wits between two canny tacticians Antonio López Habas and Carles Cuadrat when old foes ATK Mohun Bagan took on Bengaluru FC for the first time in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Monday.
A tactical match was always on the cards, as both teams prefer to play pragmatically most of the time. But Antonio Habas surprised everyone, including Carles Cuadrat, when ATK Mohun Bagan took an attacking approach early on.
Habas deployed his team in a 4-3-3 attacking formation with David Williams, Roy Krishna and Manvir starting in the front three and the Spanish attacking midfielder playing an advanced role. Pronay Halder and Carl McHugh stayed deep in midfield to provide balance.
In the absence of Javier Hernández, Edu García was assigned the responsibility of dictating the game through the middle and the former Bengaluru did not disappoint. The Spaniard was the focal point of most of ATK Mohun Bagan’s attack and played a pivotal role.
The trio in front were a constant threat. David Williams and Manvir operated freely on the flanks. Both Harmanjot Khabra and Rahul Bheke had a forgettable exit as they failed to control Williams and Manvir.
The Australian forward had been struggling to find his best form this season, due to form problems, but decided to shine in a great match. David Williams was ATK’s savior in last season’s second leg semi-final clash and this time he proved himself as ATK’s knight in shining armor Mohun Bagan against a team Habas considers one of the best in the league.
Bengaluru FC is known for their quick flanking movements, but thanks to efficient defense from Pritam Kotal and Subhasish Bose, Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh were quiet for most of the game. In fact, Cuadrat was forced to bench Udanta early in the second half as the India international failed to sway the game. The Blues also missed Ashique Kuruniyan’s quickness on the left side, as Rahul Bheke was nowhere near Malayali’s player in terms of agility.
Cleiton Silva and Dimas Delgado failed to impact the game. Credit should be given to McHugh and Halder for now allowing any open space to the Blues duo.
ATK Mohun Bagan’s defense has been top-notch since the first game, but it didn’t look smooth. But this match showed that Habas’ men are capable of playing an offensive style of play. They did very well in the first half before playing defense in the second half. It also helped that Garcia, Williams and Krishna were all good on the ball and could negotiate tight spaces with ease.
ATKMB players are getting fitter with every passing game and this performance would have pleased Habas.