KOLKATA: Mohammedan Sporting Club and ATK FC look to close out their 2019 Durand Cup run on a positive note when they square off at Vivekananda Yubabharati Krirangam on Friday, kick-off 6 pm.
With Mohammedan SC have already been forced to give up on their semi-final dreams coach Subrata Bhattacharya was asked about the age-old sports cliche of “playing for pride.”
“We have already got pride and now we want to get a good result in our last game,” said Bhattacharya.
The Black Panthers have had their moments over the past two weeks but not consistent enough to get a top-four spot. Following their 2-0 opening day defeat against Mohun Bagan, Mohammedan SC showed ruthless efficiency to thrash Indian Navy 6-2 in their second Group B encounter with Ivorian striker Arthur Kouassi grabbing a fifer.
Mohammedan SC have looked competitive and organised at both ends of the park against Navy, but with tournament organizers giving preference to head-to-head record instead of goal-difference, the Black Panthers will rue their opening day loss. If they had been able to draw that match, they would still have a realistic shot at the knock-out stages.
Nonetheless, Bhattacharya said he don’t want to dwell in the past and fully focussed on their last group game against ATK, a side which he believes will provide a stern challenge.
“Playing against ATK is going to be very difficult but beating Navy has given us the needed confidence. We take every team as very difficult and we have to apply our game plan against them,”
“ATK have been playing some really good football and obviously have some real speed in their line-up. We are going to have to make sure that we’ve got the players on the pitch that can deal with their physicality and their speed,” he added.
Bhattacharya has mentioned that Mohammedan SC would not be rotating for the sake of rotation, so a full-strength team is expected.
Kouassi, who is expected to torment ATK’s rearguard tomorrow, says the Black Panthers will give of their best to make their fans happy.
“We are taking the game very seriously. We play for our supporters. We have to give it our best shot as we always do,” vowed Kouassi.
“We have been unlucky and also we are a young team with most of the players are at such big stage for the very first time. This disappointment can only make us grow and make progress.” he added.
Meanwhile, the tournament has been a big learning curve for ATK so far and coach Deggie Cardozo believes that every match is an opportunity for his team to gain valuable experience and improve.
Cardozo’s men have performed strongly in their two matches but are yet to post a win, due mainly to their inability to find the net. A 1-1 draw with Navy on the opening day was followed by a 2-1 loss to Mohun Bagan, which promptly put an end to their semi-final hopes.
But with nothing to lose against Mohammedan SC, ATK has every reason to throw off the shackles and try to sign off with a win – a considerable feat given ATK is participating in the competition with their reserve team.