After being shown the door by East Bengal, Khalid Jamil kept himself busy by taking charge as an Academy Supervisor of Elite Football School of Kalyan, in Maharashtra.
But Jamil has hardly changed in the past nine months or so. He continues with his match-day rituals and still makes his way out of the tunnel a few minutes after kick-off. He remains as animated as he was before and every time Bagan miss-passed against NEROCA, his arms would go up sideways to express disappointment.
He did not make many tactical tweaks in his first two matches match as Mohun Bagan coach but definitely shook things up in the middle by making five changes against Minerva Punjab. Later, he made it clear that he will opt for rotations whenever the team plays two matches in small intervals and will hand a chance to everyone to prove themselves.
But his replacements could not put in assuring performances and Bagan had to rely on a penalty (against Minerva) and Sony Norde's brilliance in both the matches to bag the much-needed six points.
Bagan's midfield is clamouring for creative personnel as the team is stacked with holding midfielders and although Omar Elhuseinny does possess some creativity, it is simply not enough to break down defences who prefer to sit back and defend deep. His injury will further complicate matters for Jamil as the Egyptian is set to be on the sidelines for a considerable period of time.
Darren Caldeira was given an opportunity to impress but the midfielder had a poor game. Against NEROCA, Henry Kisekka produced a brilliant ball to set him up for goal but the former Bengaluru FC man miscued his shot at the vital moment.
Aryn Williams and Saran Singh outplayed Yuta Kinowaki and Caldeira in midfield. The Bagan midfielders looked clueless as NEROCA oozed confidence and were seamless in attack.
On one occasion Malem Meetei galloped from midfield into the penalty box without any hindrance and even managed to take a shot on goal. It was Shilton Paul's brilliance under the sticks that kept Bagan in the game as the 30-year-old shot-stopper made countless saves to deny the likes of Subhash Singh, Yusa Katsumi and Meetei.
The three recognised centre-backs in Eze Kingsley, Lalchhawnkima and Dalraj Singh have failed to step up and have looked average in the last two games. The biggest challenge for Jamil is to bring out the best from the Nigerian defender who has been a shadow of his former self in the ongoing I-League.
Things could have panned out differently for Bagan if Minerva Punjab had the likes of William Opoku and Philip Njoku and NEROCA were a bit more clinical in front of goal.
The only bright spark for the Mariners has been Sony Norde. He has shrugged off his injury woes and was once again the messiah for Bagan in both the matches. The Haitian was the difference-maker against NEROCA and it was his individual brilliance which handed his team the eventual winner.
While NEROCA defenders were busy cutting down his passing options, he darted unhindered through the middle, created some space for himself and placed the ball to perfection beyond Lalit Thapa's reach in the far bottom corner. He was trying his best to be the link between midfield and attack but lack of support from his team-mates let him down.
Khalid has got time on his side before he gets a chance to give a fitting reply to his former employers East Bengal. The Red and Golds have overcome the initial hiccups and have looked in fine fettle under the guidance of Alejandro Menendez. A win in the derby will not only strengthen Jamil's credibility amongst the Bagan faithful but will also redeem him after being unceremoniously sacked after the Super Cup by East Bengal.
Before that, the I-League winning coach must mend the fault lines in his team's midfield and defence.