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I-League: Mohun Bagan eager to return to winning ways
Kolkata, Dec 18: Mohun Bagan will be eager to get back to winning ways when they host I-League newcomers Neroca FC at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Tuesday.
Mohun Bagan were held to a 1-1 draw by Shillong Lajong in their last outing at home. They missed a lot of players in that game due to injuries and a suspension.
But in Tuesday's game, the green and maroons will be hopeful of breaking the double-digit mark on the points table. They are currently at the third place with eight points from four matches.
Minerva Punjab FC and Shillong Lajong FC are on 10 points each with the former taking the pole position due to a superior goal difference.
"We have to learn from our past mistakes. It is not that we haven't scored goals in the game against Minerva and Lajong — the two games we dropped points in. We conceded after scoring the first goal and it is imperative that we don't drop points in our home games," Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen said on the eve of the game.
"For the last three years I have been harping over the lack of consistency and seldom has it been that Mohun Bagan have won three games back-to-back. If you look at it, right now we are kind of in a similar position in terms of points compared to out title-winning season," he added.
Mohun Bagan's star Haitian forward Sony Norde and Ansumana Kromah still remain doubtful after sitting out the last one while Arijit Bagui and Azharuddin Mallick have been ruled out altogether.
Defender Kingsley Eze Obumneme will serve a suspension after his red card against Lajong.
However, Sen did not want the injuries to be an excuse, especially to that of Yuta Kinowaki who has been ruled out for at least five weeks.
"It is a part and parcel of the modern game. Unfortunately this season the injuries are a bit more but we have to make results from what we have. We are missing Yuta of course but it does not mean the team was wholly reliant on him. He played the lone match and he was good and everyone termed him as the man to look out for.
"We might never know if he would have been that important for us until and unless he plays more games. So it is unfortunate but there is no point crying over spilt milk," he said.
The former United SC coach only had words of praise for the visitors.
"They are a good side with five good foreigners. They have Subash Singh and Saran Singh who were once part of our team. Even Govin Singh has played for India and Felix Chidi already has two goals to his name," Sen said.
"Gift and I have a good relation. He is a young and enterprising coach and they are an organised outfit."
Skipper and goalkeeper Shilton Paul pleaded the Mohun Bagan supporters to throng the stadium in large numbers for the game.
"We were discussing amongst ourselves that the turnout in the last game was abysmally low. We expected to get a lot of support from the stands after what we saw in the Kolkata derby. People in the stands fill the players with more positivity so I hope we get that turnout in the upcoming games," he said.
Neroca are just two points behind Mohun Bagan with six points in their kitty with a game in hand. Their confidence is sky-high, but head coach Gift Raikhan knows the Kolkata giants will pose a formidable threat.
"It will be good for the people of Manipur if NEROCA beat a big club like Mohun Bagan. But beating Mohun Bagan is not easy at all and everyone knows that," he said.
Although Mohun Bagan are missing quite a few key players, Raikhan cautioned that his players will face a strong challenge on Tuesday.
"We cannot predict. They are not about one or two important foreigners. Mohun Bagan is Mohun Bagan. The club's name is there and they will play for the club's name. It is not going to be easy. Despite their injuries and suspension, they will still be strong," he said.
"We won our last two games after losing our first one and the boys are now highly motivated and they want to show that they can play that football of a higher standard. We will stick to our plan and give our hundred percent," he added.
He also shed some light on the bonding with his team, who won the I-League Second Division last season.
"My senior players, Gouramangi (Singh), Sushil (Kumar Singh), Naoba (Singh), Subash (Singh) are all like my younger brothers. I am just a coach by name but we discuss like peers and friends. We have a healthy addition of youth too and so all of us have mixed like tea with sugar," the former Pune FC coach joked.