ATK Mohun Bagan returned to winning ways in Juan Ferrando’s first match as head coach as they came from behind to beat NorthEast United FC 3-2 in the ISL at PJN Stadium in Margao, Goa on Tuesday. Liston Colaco (45+3’) and Hugo Boumous (53’, 76’) scored the crucial goals for the Mariners.
Khalid Jamil’s men who came into the game on the back of a victory needed just two minutes to take the lead when Suhair stole a march on his marker and sent a glancing header past Amrinder Singh to put NorthEast United FC in front.
ATK Mohun Bagan though soon found their feet after the early blow and should have leveled matters in the 12th minute when Roy Krishna’s clever flick found its way to Manvir Singh who couldn’t score on the quick turn despite being just two yards out. The two reversed roles seven minutes later as Manvir turned provider with a low drilled cross that was met by Krishna at the near post but he could only guide it into the side netting.
The Mariners kept up the pressure and Colaco went close with a free-kick that dipped late in the 28th minute but did not do enough to sneak in under the crossbar. ATK Mohun Bagan nearly profited from a slip-up from NorthEast United’s Hernan Santana as Colaco collected the loose ball and fired at goal but he couldn’t keep it on target in the 34th minute.
The Highlanders came back strongly in the final five minutes of the half and Rochharzela forced a save from Amrinder five minutes later with a sweetly-struck half volley. A minute later it was Mirshad Michu’s turn to earn his bread when he produced a fine save to deny Colaco at the end of a quick counter-attack. Boumous then tried to score on the rebound but his effort was blocked.
ATK Mohun Bagan then scored very much against the run of play in the third minute of first-half stoppage time when Krishna received the ball after a poor goal kick from Michu and the Fijian found Colaco with a cross who sent a looping header over the goalkeeper to restore parity for Ferrando’s men.
Jamil reacted to the late goal in the first half by making two changes at the interval as Danmawia and Joe Zoherliana came on for Rochharzela and Provat Lakra. The Highlanders started the second half strongly and almost regained the lead when Amrinder’s punch in the 48th minute was weak and it fell straight to Lalkhawpuimawia who couldn’t keep his header on target.
NorthEast United FC missed another golden chance to take the lead a minute later when Lalkhawpuimawia fired a pinpoint cross from Zoherliana wide from six yards out as he failed to sort his feet. The Mariners then punished Jamil’s men for missing those early chances as NorthEast United FC failed to clear their lines allowing Subhasish Bose to run inside the box and square it to Boumous who tapped home in an empty net in the 53rd minute to put his team in front.
Three minutes later ATK Mohun Bagan had a chance to add a third when Manvir Singh went through on goal but Michu came off his line to tackle the forward and save the day for his team. Manvir then got another chance to get on the scoresheet in the 65th minute when he collected a loose ball on the edge of the box before charging past two defenders to go clear on goal but shot straight at Michu who made a good save.
The NorthEast United FC goalkeeper was again called into action in the 73rd minute when Colaco sneaked in behind the NorthEast United FC defense and tried to find the back of the net but Michu denied him with a save from point-blank range. He then got to the ball first after Boumous threatened to latch onto the loose ball.
However, he was beaten three minutes later when substitute Joni Kauko threaded a through ball for Boumous who finished with ease to put ATK Mohun Bagan 3-1 up. Substitute Shereef then halved the deficit three minutes from time to set up a nervy finish but ATK Mohun Bagan held on to give Ferrando a winning start.
The win lifted Mariners to the fifth spot in the table while the Highlanders stayed ninth. NorthEast United is next in action against league leaders Mumbai City FC on Monday while ATK Mohun Bagan takes on FC Goa on December 29.