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Juan Ferrando admits chink in Mohun Bagan defence after AFC Cup win over Abahani Dhaka

Mohun Bagan conceded a 1-0 lead to Abahani Dhaka in the 17th minute when defenders failed to clear the ball in the box, and goalkeeper Vishal Kaith fumbled to collect it, resulting in the goal.

Juan Ferrando admits chink in Mohun Bagan defence after AFC Cup win over Abahani Dhaka

Mohun Bagan coach Juan Ferrando. (Photo credit: Indian Football Team)


Sudipta Biswas

Updated: 23 Aug 2023 7:14 AM GMT

Mohun Bagan diligently fought its way back to the AFC Cup 2023-2024 group stage, coming from a goal deficit in the first half to beat Abahani Dhaka 3-1 in the South Zone playoff at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata, on Tuesday.

It was identical result just like the last year, when Juan Ferrando's Mohun Bagan routed Abahani Dhaka 3-1 to storm into the continential tournament's group stage.

Defence remains a worry for Mohun Bagan

Despite the win, Ferrando remained worried about a porous defence, which was largely responsible for the lead Abahani Dhaka took in the 17th minute with quick play into the box, which left Mohun Bagan defence and goalkeeper Vishal Kaith stunned.

"When we play in attack, we use a 3-2-3-2 system depending on the position of our attacks. But it is important for me to work in the transition into defending, because sometimes they are both in the attack, and it is tough to control the defensive transitional details with both in the attacking areas. They are responsible to assist to Jason, Armando (Sadiku), Kiyan (Nassiri) and Manvir (Singh) when they are playing in the frontline and create chances for us,” Ferrando said at the post match press conference.

The Spaniard, meanwhile, said his side is only half fit and needs time to gain optimum finess.

“We cannot really tell you how many matches we will need to be fully fit," said Ferrando, adding, "The target of the entire team is to improve with every match. Obviously, we are now only 50 % fit and need to improve a lot."

Ferrando also claimed that playing multiple tournaments in such a short span of time is making things difficult for his team.

"We are in different competitions – CFL, Durand Cup and AFC Cup, and some are joining the national team. So, I hope with every passing day and training session the team can improve. When we decide the line-ups going forward, hopefully, we’ll have a more fit team," the 42-year-old said.

Unlike their previous meeting, a goal by Abahani's Carribean striker Cornelius Stewart left the ten thousand odd Mohun Bagan fans stunned.

Mohun Bagan would draw level in the 37th minute when Jason Cummings scored from a penalty following a foul on Liston, who was tackled by Abahani defender Sushanto in the box.

What has made Mohun Bagan sharp in the second half?

In a reversal of luck, Abahani would then find itself under an Mohun Bagan onslaught after the half-time, with the Kolkata side snatching two quick goals - Milad Soleimani's own goal in the 58th minute and Armando Sadiku's maiden strike a couple of minutes later - after rattling the Abahani defence with relentless attacks from both flanks and high presses from the midfield.

Asked what changed the momentium after the second half, Ferrando said, “We changed a lot of details in the second half and talked about our plan. We knew it would be difficult today because some players joined without proper training and we had problems in the last moment as well. But I am happy because the players played like they wanted to be in the group stages and we had the success.”

'We need to work harder'

Cummings, who scored his second successive goal in the AFC Cup, echoed Ferrando. "In the first half, we were not at our best. We got the penalty that gave us a lifeline. I was happy to score the goal to get us back into the game," said the Australian.

"We need to work hard, press harder and the coach told us that we needed to do more, keep the ball better and press better. We kept control of the ball, moved it side to side and created more chances. We scored twice in the second half and got a great win," added Cummings.

Hector impresses on debut

Spanish centre-back Hector Yuste, who made his debut just a day after joining Mohun Bagan training camp, impressed Ferrando.

“Hector played 90 minutes today. I am happy with his performance. He is an important player because he can help in the build-up, helping us in attack and also with the transitions. I know he is coming with talent and I hope we can help him improve a lot in training with one day at a time," Ferrando stated.

Asked about Hugo Boumous' collaboration with Sahal Abdul Samad in the midfield which enabled Mohun Bagan change the complexion of the game, the Mariners manager said, “I think both are good together. Sahal is very aggressive and the talent of Boumous is well known."

Focus on recovery before Durand Cup quarters

For Ferrando, the focus will now shift to the crucial Durand Cup quarterfinal fixture against Mumbai City FC, the shield winner, on August 27. But the coach does not want to think too much about the game, as he wants to give his players time for recovery.

“For me, the most important is to recover well because we have problems in our dressing room," said Ferrando, adding, "We have some injuries, so my target is a good recovery session and then we will prepare for the match. We need to think about the present. Some players like Jason (Cummings) played 80 minutes and a great recovery is important for them. It is difficult for all the players and staff to think about the next match now. We’ll prepare for everything from tomorrow.”

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