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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Our players fought till last minute: Manuel Cascallana

Date:

Mohun Bagan Super Giant assistant coach Manuel Cascallana showered praise on his team following their thrilling victory over Mumbai City FC in the final match of the Indian Super League (ISL), securing the League Shield on Monday night.

In a tense battle, Mohun Bagan SG held off Mumbai City FC to claim the top spot and clinch the Shield. Liston Colaco opened the scoring for the home team in the first half.

Despite Mumbai City FC’s spirited second-half performance, the Mariners defended staunchly to maintain their lead. Jason Cummings doubled the tally for Antonio Habas’ side with a late goal.

Mumbai City FC managed to narrow the gap with a late goal from Lallianzuala Chhangte, but ultimately fell short, granting Mohun Bagan SG their inaugural Shield triumph.

Reflecting on the match, Cascallana acknowledged the challenges posed by Mumbai City FC in the second half but commended his players for their resilient response.

“It was difficult because the way we were attacking, they were losing. They needed to draw. But automatically, the team came a little bit back. But with the substitutions with Brendan Hamill, Deepak Tangri and Jason Cummings we changed the dynamic of the second half. We have 21 warriors in our team and they fought until the last minute. Finally, we scored two goals and conceded only one, so we won the game,” he said in the post-match press conference.

After Chhangte’s goal for Mumbai City FC, the Mariners were reduced to 10 men when substitute Brendan Hamill was sent off. Despite the Islanders’ late onslaught, they failed to challenge Mohun Bagan SG goalkeeper Vishal Kaith.

Cascallana also reflected on the team’s journey under head coach Antonio Habas, who took charge in January. He revealed Habas had pledged to transform them into champions following their heavy 4-0 defeat against FC Goa in Kolkata in December 2023.

“There is always pressure when you concede but as I can say, this is good pressure. If you would be asking me this against Chennaiyin FC, against Punjab FC, against Bengaluru FC, against Mumbai City FC, it is good pressure being in possibility of winning the championship depending on ourselves. I remember (on the) 15th of January, coach Antonio Lopez Habas and me, we came here three months (ago). We were 10 points behind FC Goa,” Cascallana recalled.

“After the FC Goa match, coach Habas said, ‘If you trust me and my work, we will be champions.’ And look, we are,” he added.

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Under head coach Habas’s guidance, Mohun Bagan SG has undergone a remarkable transformation, emerging as one of the league’s most formidable teams. In the 12 matches played under the Spaniard’s leadership this season, they have suffered only one defeat against Chennaiyin FC, securing nine wins along the way.

When asked the reason for their success under Habas, Cascallana said, “We have the best squad in India, in the ISL. We only need them to play like a team. If they can play like the team, no one can stop us. So it was really easy. They combined from the first minute, they were working hard in the training sessions, on the pitch during the match. Doesn’t matter the result. When we lost against Chennaiyin FC, it would be easy for everyone to start thinking that, ‘Oh no, this (winning the Shield) is not going to happen. But the opposite (happened), the team kept on believing and believing. The only thing is being a team on and off the pitch.”

More than 60,000 spectators filled the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan for the final league stage match, with the majority being passionate Mohun Bagan SG fans cheering for their team. These loyal supporters left the stadium elated as Mohun Bagan SG secured their first-ever Shield, a moment of triumph after coming close to victory on two previous occasions.

“We are really thankful for them (the supporters). We felt the presence from the warm up. It’s amazing playing in such an amazing crowd. I hope everyone in Kolkata, in West Bengal, in India.. All the Mohun Bagan SG fans are happy tonight. This is for them,” Cascallana expressed.

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