It has been a while since Mohun Bagan played so effortlessly in their domestic season opener. In 2014 and 2015, when they clashed against Mohammedan Sporting in their inaugural game of the season in the Calcutta Football League (CFL), they were restricted to a point on each occassion.
Even in the previous season under Sankar Lal Chakraborty, they had to toil hard to register a 1-0 win against Pathachakra, who ultimately got relegated from the CFL Premier Division at the end of the competition.
A month of pre-season including 10 days of rigorous training sessions in Goa under new Spanish coach Kibu Vicuna has helped the team find their rhythm right from the first match. A flurry of short passes coupled with quick give-and-goes and intelligent off the ball runs to create more open space were some of the key aspects of their gameplay which helped them dominate Mohammedan.
If the Spanish contingent of Salva Chamorro, Joseba Beitia and Fran Morante showed their class and composure in their respective departments, the Indian players also put in a robust performance to prove that they have the requisite quality to form a formidable supporting cast. A few eyebrows were raised when they found SK Sahil and Nongdamba Naorem in the starting line-up ahead of more experienced campaigners but the two youngsters performed their job to perfection. Sahil with his defensive qualities turned out to be the apt partner for Beitia who oozed confidence in the role of an orchestrator from midfield. Whereas, Naorem on the left flank provided width and pace which troubled his opposite number throughout the match.
The two wing-backs, Dhanachandra Singh and Ashutosh Mehta, hardly put a foot wrong and joined the attack at every given opportunity. Mehta looked in good shape and it was his cross which helped Bagan double their lead on the 21st minute.
Although Vicuna set his team up in a traditional 4-4-2 formation but the ease with which his men changed shape during the transition from defence to attack, spoke volume about the amount of work that has been put in the training grounds. There were nine players who debuted for Bagan on Friday and yet the team performed in perfect harmony.
The Spanish coach is aware of his team's strengths and has chalked out a style which would suit the players. To utilize Chamorro's aerial prowess, he asked his wing-backs to overlap and cross. And at the same time, his team played lots of short passes to make inroads in the attacking third making use of Beitia's accurate passing ability. Mohun Bagan struggled in the previous season as their strikers kept misfiring but if Chamorro continues his form throughout the season then there should not be any dearth of goals.
But physical trainer Michael Abotsi has his work cut out as the team looked sluggish after the hour-mark. There were visibly tired legs and fatigued muscles and the team is yet to reach full match fitness. Mohammedan used that opportunity to claw back into the game but a resilient Shilton Paul under the sticks and some poor finishing from the Black Panthers ensured that Vicuna could boast of a clean sheet in his first match in charge as the head coach.
The Spanish era has indeed set sail smoothly in the century-old club.