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Anwar Ali’s brace helps Mohun Bagan to an easy win | Football News

Juan Ferrando had wanted Anwar Ali at Mohun Bagan when their name was prefixed with ATK. That was in the Durand Cup last year. But it couldn’t happen because there were some problems with his registration, Ferrando said on Monday before his team, now suffixed with Super Giant, hosted Nepal’s Machhindra FC in a first round AFC Cup qualifier.

Anwar Ali celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal in the AFC Cup qualifier match between Mohun Bagan and Machhindra FC(Samir Jana/HT)
Anwar Ali celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal in the AFC Cup qualifier match between Mohun Bagan and Machhindra FC(Samir Jana/HT)

Ferrando did not elaborate on what the problem was possibly because it has since been sorted. “He is among the top three central defenders in India. He can help in the build-up,” the Spaniard had said of the player who will turn 23 on August 28. One who has joined Mohun Bagan on a long-term loan deal from Delhi FC. One who broke Machhindra FC’s dour defensive resistance with a strong header off a Hugo Boumous corner-kick in the 38th minute. And capped off a good evening with another leaping header, this time off a Dimitri Petratos free-kick in the 86th minute.

In between, Jason Cummings, the Australian forward who played in the last World Cup, rounded off goalkeeper Bishal Shrestha, who made string of saves to keep the scoreline respectable, to score Mohun Bagan’s second goal in the 58th. Wide left Pierre Oloumou pulled one back with a stunning left-footer from a retaken free kick some 23 yards from goal in the 78th minute.

It has been a little over 18 months since FC Goa bought defibrillators and trained staff in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. That was to deal with any eventuality given Ali’s congenital heart condition: he has hypertrophic cardio myopathy and had to submit an affidavit to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) stating he is playing of his own accord.

In that time, Ali made his debut in the Indian Super League (ISL) and for the senior national team, scored his only international goal, and three games into his Mohun Bagan career, struck in the way central defenders are known for. In his first Asian club competition match.

That Ali was Mohun Bagan’s best player on either side of the pitch in the Durand Cup’s Kolkata derby on Saturday was proof not only of how incisive East Bengal were but also how well the player from Punjab has bedded in. Ali didn’t like how the derby ended but, speaking to reporters on Monday, had said he had enjoyed the atmosphere. “So many people, so many supporters.”

It was at Salt Lake stadium that Ali scored his only goal for India, a powerful first minute shot from close against Hong Kong in the 2022 Asian Cup qualifier. On Wednesday evening, only around 6000 fetched up. They did the Poznan – a celebration that is the signature of Lech Poznan where supporters turn their back to the pitch, link arms and bounce – and the Viking Clap. “This was the club I had always wanted to play for,” Ali had said on Monday.

Mohun Bagan will play Abahani Dhaka, who beat Maldives’ Super Eagles 2-1 in another qualifier, next. The winners will get a berth in the AFC Cup group league. For two successive seasons, they won the group but were eliminated in the next round. If that jinx is to be broken, Ali will need to more evenings like this.

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