Juan Ferrando got off to a winning start as ATK Mohun Bagan coach but only just as his side scraped past a spirited NorthEast United FC 3-2 in a thrilling Indian Super League game at the PJN Stadium in Fatorda on Tuesday.
Ferrando jumped ship from FC Goa to ATKMB after the Mariners let go of Antonio Lopez Habas in a dramatic turn of events over the last week. Clad in ATKMB travel polo, Ferrando looked unfazed by the noise around him and went about his job but was rocked early on as VP Suhair gave NorhEast United the lead in the 2nd minute.
Hugo Boumous (53rd, 76th) scored a brace after Liston Colaco (45th) equalised for ATKMB but Mashoor Shereef (87th) got the Highlanders in the game late on. In the end, the Kolkata side held firm and recorded their first win in four matches. ATKMB now have 11 points from seven games. NorthEast United remain in ninth spot with seven points from eight matches.
It was not a fairytale start for Ferrando as ATKMB boss as NorthEast went ahead in just the second minute. Mathias Coureur floated in a delicious corner towards the near post where Suhair was on hand to nod home.
Stung by the early setback, ATKMB upped the ante and should have pulled level but for Manvir Singh who fired over the bar from inside the box.
Roy Krishna had a couple of half-chances thereafter but good reflexes from Mirshad Michu in NorthEast goal and Krishna’s inefficiency keep the ball in target kept the score to 1-0.
For the Highlanders, seasoned defender Gurjinder Kumar got injured in the 26th minute and had to be replaced by Tondonba Singh. Colaco forced Michu into action with a fierce effort from an angle inside the box but the keeper did well to avert the danger.
At the other end, Amrinder Singh pulled off a great save to keep Rochharzela’s long-range attempt at bay. Colaco then burst through into the penalty box but his take from an acute angle was well saved again by Michu The rebound was blocked brilliantly by Khassa Camara off Hugo Boumous.
Just when it looked like NorthEast would go into the break with a 1-0 lead, Michu scuffed a goal kick and the ball fell to Krishna who swung in a delightful cross for Colaco to head into the far corner.
After the halftime breather, ATKMB decided to go up a gear and Boumous made it 2-1 soon after the restart to underline their intent. NorthEast United failed to clear their lines for too long, leading to Subhasish Bose cutting the ball back from the left byline for Boumous to outfox the defender with a lovely piece of skill and tap home.
Krishna then beat a couple of defenders to take a wild swipe at goal before Carl McHugh made way for Joni Kauko at the hour-mark.
Kauko was at it from the off as the Finland footballer played a crucial part in the third goal, setting up Boumous with a beautifully weighted pass for the latter to slot it wide of the keeper and into the net.
Against the run of play, substitute Shereef got NorthEast back in the game with a powerful shot from inside the box with the dying minutes of the match keeping the ATKMB faithful on the edge of their seats.