Antonio Habas' ATK Mohun Bagan had a challenge in their hands against Odisha FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Thursday.
After the first two matches, Habas' team had recorded the least number of both attempted and successful passes in the league. They were happy to concede the ball and counter-attack. However, against Odisha, they saw more of the ball compared to the previous games due to the way Stuart Baxter set up his team.
523 - @atkmohunbaganfc have attempted the least number of passes (523) and also have the least number of successful passes (318) at the end of MD2 in the @IndSuperLeague . Habasball. #ATKMBOFC #HeroISL #LetsFootball pic.twitter.com/Jv7Lhu0dP9— OptaJeev (@OptaJeev) December 3, 2020
Bagan registered more than 50 per cent possession for the first time this season - they had 40 per cent and 41 per cent in their first two matches. Regardless of how they played, with and without the ball, they were always ready to ask questions of their opponents.
Odisha, in the past, may have tried to hold onto the ball but Baxter had other ideas. They closed the gaps and pressed Bagan in the danger zones to force them to work hard to create openings. It worked for most of the match.
Cole Alexander's disciplined midfield display was one of the highlights of the game. Carl McHugh, who is having a very good season, did not have it easy in midfield. Cole ensured that Bagan struggled to pull off a two-striker system that Habas deployed for the game.
Following his brilliant solo goal last weekend, Manvir Singh was rewarded with a place in the starting lineup. And unlike previous instances where had been played out wide, the Indian striker was fielded alongside Roy Krishna in Bagan's 3-5-2. But the defence led by Steven Taylor and the midfield secured by Alexander did a tidy work of isolating the frontmen from the rest of the ATK team.
The biggest and easiest chance of the evenly-contested match fell to Odisha in the first half when Jacob Tratt found himself on the end of a ball into the box. The defence had gone to sleep and Tratt, who had a free header and the goal at his mercy sent his effort wide.
Clear-cut chances were hard to come by as both teams were cautious not to concede easy goals. Baxter's men did a good job of closing down their opponents and putting them under pressure in the right areas. That was the case until the 94th minute when they switched off.
Tiri's long ball found Sandesh Jhingan unmarked on the right side of the box. The defence watched the ball fly into the box. Jhingan flicked the ball towards Roy Krishna who made a run towards the goal. The Fijian then glanced a header into the net from a tight angle. The defence watched the delighted striker zoom off.
Odisha's defence allowed Krishna, the league's best striker right now to pounce inside the box and the result was expected. Krishna has scored in each of Bagan's three matches this season and once again his quality came to the fore when the team needed it the most.
ATK Mohun Bagan have now made a habit of scoring goals in the final 15 minutes of games. But Habas will not be a satisfied man. The absence of Edu Garcia and David Williams from the side has brought their creativity down and the coach will be eager to fix the same.