Male, Aug 20 (IANS) India’s ATK Mohun Bagan will look to move a step closer to a spot in the AFC Cup inter-zone semifinals with a win against Maldives’ Maziya Sports & Recreation in Saturday’s second Group D South Zone game at the National Football Stadium in Male.
The Mariners beat fellow Indian Super League (ISL) side Bengaluru FC 2-0 in their opening game on Wednesday.
Despite being away from competitive football for more than five months – last they played against Mumbai City FC in the 2020-21 ISL final on March 13 earlier this year – the Green and Maroon hit the ground running and looked in fine form against the Blues with goals from Roy Krishna and Subhasish Bose showing them the way.
Maziya Sports & Recreation, on the other hand, suffered a 2-0 defeat against Bashundhara Kings from Bangladesh in their opener and are now in a must-win situation. A defeat on Saturday will be the end of the road for them in the continental club competition.
Antonio Lopez Habas’ men go into the contest as favourites based on a stronger squad on paper, however, it won’t be an easy outing for them by any means. It was Maziya Sports & Recreation who had shown 2018/19 ISL champions and 2016 AFC Cup finalists Bengaluru FC the door last year in the play-off match-up. Before that, they also have good results against Mohun Bagan AC before the latter joined hands with ATK FC to become ATK Mohun Bagan ahead of the 2020-21 ISL.
Despite Maziya Sports & Recreation’s record against Indian clubs in the recent past, the presence of Krishna, David Williams, Carl McHugh, and Hugo Boumous is quite reassuring from an ATK Mohun Bagan point of view. Boumous was particularly impressive on his debut for the Mariners and troubled the Blues on several occasions on Wednesday. It was his corner that was headed goalwards by an unmarked Bose before Krishna nodded home the Indian defenders effort to put the Kolkata-based side in the lead. Bose’s goal seconds into the second half was well-executed as he pounced on a pass from Williams and spun in the box to put the ball past a diving Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in goal.
Maziya Sports & Recreation also boast some solid names particularly in winger Cornelius Stewart – last season’s top-scorer with 11 goals in the Dhivehi Premier League in the Maldives – and midfielder Hamza Mohamed.
ATK Mohun Bagan’s backline needs to be wary of them; any complacency could harm their chances of advancing to semis.