Mohun Bagan played out a 1-1 draw versus Prayag United at Kalyani Stadium in an exciting I-League encounter. This result took the Mariners to 2 points from the 13 games played in their battle to survive the drop.
Coach Karim Bencherifa remained unfazed after the disappointing result as they conceded a late equaliser thanks to some poor defending by his side.
“There is nothing to be happy or unhappy about. It’s not the time for me to keep crying. We have to get over the negative things quickly. Our next match is due in only 4 days because of the tight fixture we are facing. We need to get ready for that. But I am happy with the way the team has fought in the match. The side has become competitive in the last few games,” he mentioned.
The former Salgaocar FC coach also hailed the opponent’s performance while hinting at the lack of having the same luxury that his counterpart Eelco Schattorie enjoys.
“Prayag certainly has many of the best players of the country, and that too in almost every position. However, in my side we had two players who made their debut today for the team. We are still trying to find the rhythm. Still, I am happy with the way my players fought.”
The Moroccan coach held the 42-day long break responsible for the lack of match fitness in his players.
“The players were out of action for almost a month and half. The frustration will take time to go away. We have played three matches after our return to the league and have played well in all three matches. For example, Tolgay (Ozbey) has now played only 4 games after his 3 month long injury break. He is getting better with time, as you may have already seen. Every match is like a do or die game for us and I am enjoying the challenge.”
Karim believes that the addition of Odafa Okolie, the star striker of team, returns to action in the next match, they will undoubtedly be much stronger.
“Odafa will play from the next match onwards. It will give us the edge in the close matches. Quinton (Jacobs) was also good today and can control the game in the midfield. He is new to the team and will add more value with time passing.”
The Bagan coach also conceded the fact that Prayag was the better team in the match and deserved something in the end.
“Yes, they were slightly better. I will say they were more ready to play the game. We are yet to find our peak because of the long break. But they have got continuous match practice. Many will say that we concentrated on defending after scoring the goal. But in a match, where you are not in command, you can’t really expect to take risks.”
Bagan’s squad selection over the summer has been absolutely shambolic and an example of the same is the lack of wingers in their side.
“If (Syed Rahim) Nabi plays as a striker, I have only Manish Bhargav and a few academy boys left as positive wingers. So, even if I try to overlap by the flank that is not a very feasible option. Playing Nabi as a left out can solve the problem. He is a hard working boy and has overcome his injury recently. I have not seen many players with a higher work rate than him.”
The Green and Maroon coach though denied the fact that the draw against Prayag will demoralize his players as they will next face the ONGC challenge who are coached by Santosh Kashyap, who was sacked earlier this season by the Mariners.
“Prayag is one of the strongest teams of the league. We had retained our lead till 88 minutes of play. This will certainly give the boys a boost in confidence. I know that these matches are going to be hard ones. But this is one of the biggest challenges I have faced in life. I will be happy to fight through it,” he signed off.
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