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I-League: Mohammedan Sporting to face Gokulam Kerala in struggle for survival battle

Updated on: 12 February,2023 03:42 PM IST  |  Kolkata

Mohammedan Sporting are fighting to stay out of the relegation zone and just when their performance needed an upswing, it is going down

I-League: Mohammedan Sporting to face Gokulam Kerala in struggle for survival battle

Hero I-League Trophy (Pic Courtesy: PTI)

Mohammedan Sporting are fighting to stay out of the relegation zone and just when their performance needed an upswing, it is going down.

In the I-League 2022-23, they have been able to grab full points only against 11th-placed Mumbai Kenkre since the turn of the year. Even the unbeaten home record this season was broken in a humiliating 0-4 loss to RoundGlass Punjab, and after losing the last two matches, they are just three points out of the relegation zone.

This troubled brigade of Kibu Vicuna will be taking on Gokulam Kerala FC here at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan on Sunday. Gokulam are defending champions but have also started dropping down the ladder. They are now fourth on the table with a ten-point gap between them and the top. Therefore, none of the two teams can afford to waste points in tomorrow's match. Gokulam have lost three matches since the resumption of the Hero I-League after the winter break. With a lot of away matches coming up, Francesc Bonet knows he has to pick up full points against a team like Mohammedan Sporting, whose target is survival.

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Those are often teams that hurt title contenders most and the ominous thing about Vicuna's team is that they have firepower. Just that it does not come out often enough. Nobody can doubt the scoring ability of Marcus Joseph and Abiola Dauda. But Vicuna has tried them in different positions, sometimes starting with the former, at other times with the latter - nothing has yielded enough goals.

Particularly in the last few matches, midfielders like Kean Lewis, Sheikh Faiaz, Abhisek Halder have created a lot of opportunities but lost the plot in attacking third. Mirlan Murzaev, sometimes played in a forward's role, has also not looked the part, leading to Mohammedan drawing or losing matches they could have won. That is why Vicuna, on Saturday, stressed on the importance of converting the chances they get. "We have to take advantage of the opportunities we get and try to score first," he categorically said. While he admitted wasting scoring opportunities is a headache, the Spanish coach maintained that his side is improving.

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"We've improved even in the last two matches. Especially in the last game, we were the better team," was his opinion. "I'm happy with the way the players are working on the field at the training ground. The trick is to keep believing in ourselves. The results will come." Vicuna's counterpart Bonet spoke highly of the opponents. "Mohammedan Sporting are a good team and should not be judged by their position on the table," he remarked.

"They are not there because they have played badly. Sometimes they've been unlucky and sometimes the finishing hasn't been very good," he elaborated. It is natural for Bonet to be wary of such a team, not to mention his own set of problems. Sergio Mendigutxia up front, has been sublime one day and wasteful on another. The defence led by Bouba Aminou and Pawan Kumar has also made the occasional blunder, best example being the failed offside trap for Luka Majcen in the last match that led to an own goal by Pawan. Such mistakes shall prove to be costlier as the league approaches its end. "We have also been lacking in the finishing part of the game for the last few games," Bonet said.

"Often we have created more chances than the opponents but have not converted them. Midfielder Thahir Zaman supported his coach by saying Mohammedan and Gokulam have the same kind of problems and added, "If both teams manage to be clinical, we can hope for an enjoyable match tomorrow."

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