It could have been a fairytale start to Antonio Vicuna’s reign in Indian football as Mohun Bagan had the golden opportunity of winning the Durand Cup 2019 title on Saturday.
Unfortunately, the Maroon and Green brigade went down 1-2 against Gokulam Kerala on Saturday at the Salt Lake Stadium.
Asia’s oldest cup tournament, Durand Cup, was organised in Kolkata for the first time ever and the stage was set for the Mariners to bag their record 17th title and surpass arch-rivals East Bengal.
Vicuna had included semifinal hero VP Suhair in the starting XI alongside Salvador Perez Martinez in a bid to add more flair in the attacking third.
Mohun Bagan got several chances to score the opening goal in the first half but failed to penetrate past the resolute Gokulam defenders. Much to the local fans’ disbelief, it was Gokulam who scored first in the dying moments of the first half via Marcus Joseph’s penalty.
The Mariners looked exhausted when they came out in the second half and lacked the intent to score an equaliser. Santigo Varela’s boys took advantage of the opportunity and netted their second goal in the 51st minute.
It all started with full-back Ashutosh Mehta losing possession of the ball in Gokulam’s half and Naocha Singh capitalised. The Gokulam left-back ran down the left flank before forwarding through ball for Marcus Joseph. The Trinidadian striker outpaced Lalchhawnkima, entered the box and found the back of the net.
To Ashutosh’s defence, the player got injured at the very beginning after a rough tackle from opposition’s Jestin George. The injury never really allowed the versatile full-back to settle into the game.
Mohun Bagan pulled one back thanks to Ubaid CK’s blunder under the bar. Salva Chamorro’s header of Joseba Beitia’s cross went inside the goal after Ubaid failed to grab the ball properly.
The Kolkata side never looked convincing in the match fitness wise. Even though Mohun Bagan were the first club among the Durand Cup participants to start pre-season on July 4, their fitness on-field has been questionable. The club's fitness concerns need to be addressed as soon as possible.
Gokulam outplayed Bagan even after maintaining only 30% of the possession and credit must go to their star forward Marcus Joseph.
The Trinidadian remained off-colour in the first half but gained momentum in the second half and demolished Mohun Bagan’s hopes of winning their 17th Durand title.
The Durand Cup win was just a beginning for the Kerala club who will now shift focus on I-League. With Bruno Pelissari slowly attaining match fitness, the Malabarians will be a force to reckon in the I-League2019-20 season.