ATK Mohun Bagan picked up a hard-fought win in their first-ever Indian Super League (ISL) match against Kerala Blasters in the opening day fixture on Friday.
The Mariners looked rusty on the pitch and their star players were far from their best due to lack of a proper pre-season. Adding to their woes was the injury to Michael Soosairaj in the 12th minute of the game as a result of a clumsy tackle by Prasanth Karuthadathkuni.
Coach Antonio Habas was not pleased with the referee’s decision of not awarding ATK Mohun Bagan a foul despite Soosairaj injuring his knee.
“We have to evaluate the injury of (Michael) Soosairaj but the first time I saw him it wasn't a good feeling. I think that the referee should have given a foul because the player had almost broken his knee. But it is not a problem. We have to provide support to Soosairaj so that he can recover immediately,” said the Spanish coach.
Australian striker David Williams, who was a regular starter in erstwhile ATK’s title-winning season last year alongside Roy Krishna in the strike force, found himself on the bench and was introduced only in the 82nd minute of the match.
Habas explained why he excluded the star striker from the starting lineup in the opening match. He said, “We had to be cautious in the first match of the season. It is not good for a player to play 90 minutes in this humidity and with this intensity when you have not played for eight months. We have to substitute everyone be it Roy (Krishna), (David) Williams or Edu (Garcia). But I think he played well.”
The two-time ISL winning coach hailed his team’s performance in the season opener and also quipped that they will think about their next opposition East Bengal only after Sunday.
“It is very difficult and very complicated to compete after eight months. In this match, the team showed a fantastic attitude and as a whole, it was a brilliant effort. Now we have to think about East Bengal after Sunday. We will be training every day.”
The Spanish boss was not happy with how his team’s midfielders and strikers performed but he claimed that he was satisfied with the win.
“We have to correct the situation in the central midfield and in the striking zone. We have to press the opponent. Everything else was good for us. Kerala Blasters played a good match but we won the three points. I am very happy with the three points. Today (Friday) is about three points.”