The 2021-22 campaign of the Indian Super League started on a fabulous note at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa. ATK Mohun Bagan won the first game of the season by 4-2 against a hapless Kerala Blasters FC. Last year's runners-up showed why they are the team to beat while KBFC have issues to solve. Goals from Hugo Boumos (2), Roy Krishna and Liston Colaco edged out strikes from Sahal Abdul Samad and Pereyra Diaz.
The game was full of attacking football and entertainment for the fans. A total of six goals, a penalty, and a controversial first-goal were some of the many important incidents from the game. Antonio Lopes Habas guided his team to yet another important win while Ivan Vukomanovic endured a defeat in his first ISL match.
Here are the top five talking points from the ISL fixture between ATK Mohun Bagan and Kerala Blasters FC:
Hugo Boumous will be the defining factor
ATK Mohun Bagan made a huge statement by signing Hugo Boumous ahead of the season. The former Mumbai City FC player scored two goals in the first half, including the fastest opening goal in the history of the ISL in the third minute.
He also provided the crucial through pass to Roy Krishna which led to the penalty for the third goal. Boumous was at the centre of several attacking moves in the game. If the Mariners are to win any silverware, then Boumous will play the defining role.
Bijoy Varghese one to look out for
Kerala Blasters FC fielded Marko Leskovic and Bijoy Varghese as a center-back pairing. The latter was really impressive in his tackles and duels for the outfit. Bijoy Varghese was making his ISL debut and delivered a performance that had several flashes of promise. He had four clearances, a flawless aerial and ground duel wins percentage and two interceptions from the match.
KBFC needs a capable Indian center-back and Bijoy could be a great find. The 21-year-old has a lot of potentials and his frame with a reading of the game allows him to dominate in many situations. He also got on the end of corner kicks due to his aerial prowess. Given that an individual error by Bijoy led to a goal, but those mistakes will vanish as he gains more confidence and game time.
ATK Mohun Bagan a threat in attack
Popular belief suggests that ATKMB is one of the best defensive teams in the ISL. However, their performance against KBFC suggested that they're equally strong going forward. Players like Roy Krishna, Liston Colaco, Hugo Boumous all got on the scoresheet.
Antonio Lopes Habas has constructed a side built to win trophies. With a solid defence and a lethal attack, ATKMB will be the team to beat this year.
Rahul KP will be a huge miss
KBFC has a lot of issues to deal with already after the first game of the season. Despite the humiliating loss, there was a glimpse of what the Yellow Army can offer going forward. Rahul KP delivered a sensational cross from the right flank for Sahal who found the back of the net with the equalizer. The assist was a window into what Rahul offers to the team.
However, the young winger had to leave the field due to a muscle injury. A setback that will keep him out for at least a few weeks and the player was visibly distraught. Losing an attacking asset at the initial stages will be a huge loss for KBFC. The injury will also increase the pressure on someone like Adrian Luna in terms of creating chances for the strikers.
ATK Mohun Bagan the team to beat
The Mariners look determined to snatch the ISL title back this season. They have a star-studded squad with key players in every position. Not to forget, players like Tiri and David Williams did not even feature in the game against KBFC. Despite a few defensive issues to fix, the team looks extremely balanced.
The depth in talent will allow them to keep rotating and avoid injuries to key players. Habas will be looking to add a third ISL crown in his locker and the team looks focused on regaining their lost position as the ISL champions. A brilliant roster of Indian players coupled with an incredibly strong foreign contingent makes ATKMB the team to beat this season.