ISL 7: ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City load barrels in two-horse race for League Winners Shield - The Daily Guardian
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ISL 7: ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City load barrels in two-horse race for League Winners Shield

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Panaji (Goa) [India], February 15 (ANI): It is not often that a league’s conclusion is perfectly set up with a match that is a virtual final, a straight shootout to determine who goes home with the coveted ISL League Winners Shield.
Yet, as the league phase of the ongoing seventh season of Indian Super League (ISL) enters its home stretch, it is becoming more and more apparent that the number one spot, and a berth in the 2022 AFC Champions League Group phase, will be decided on the final day, in the final match.
On February 28, the league phase of the ISL will conclude with a match between ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC. Both teams, since November, have been heads and shoulders above the rest in terms of quality and consistency.
While the rest of the league vies for third and fourth spot, Mumbai and Bagan have been fighting a private battle for the top spot all season.
It was Mumbai who held the upper hand for long. On Sunday, Bagan (36 points) took over that top spot from the Islanders (34 points) with a win over Jamshedpur. On Monday, Mumbai can retake it with a win over Bengaluru.
What makes this battle all the more interesting is the contrast that is evident between the two sides. ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC are antitheses of each other, both on and off the field.
One draws inspiration from one of the most passionate fanbases in the country and boasts of a history that stretches back more than a century. The other is a window into global football, a part of what is perhaps the most influential football conglomerate in the world. A clash of tradition and modernity.
Both are led by two Spaniards who find themselves at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to footballing philosophies. On one hand, there is Antonio Lopez Habas, ever the realist.
For Habas, winning is everything and a team derives its strength from the backbone that is its defence. A 1-0 win is a plan executed to perfection. No team has conceded less (10 goals) than his ATKMB side nor has any team kept more clean sheets (10).
Habas doesn’t believe in making more passes than is necessary, nor in keeping possession for possession’s sake. His team is second from bottom in the passing stats (5499 passes). He comes from the same tradition that gave the world Jose Mourinho and Diego Simeone.
Habas would no doubt nod in approval to what Mourinho once said about keeping the ball — ‘possession is for philosophers’.
In the other corner, there is the philosopher that Mourinho was talking about. For Sergio Lobera, the madness is more important than the method. His team has to play a certain way, as he thinks football should be played.
As somebody, who spent his formative years as a coach at FC Barcelona when Johan Cruyff’s philosophy was enveloping the club, it is no surprise that Lobera insists on his teams being aesthetically pleasing. His success, particularly this season, has been in moulding his team in his image in a relatively brief period of time.
Like a typical Lobera team, Mumbai has out-passed (7577 passes) and out-possessed their opponents this season. Only Goa has made more passes and scored more goals than them so far.
That is not to say that Lobera neglects his defence — Mumbai is right behind Bagan in second in terms of least goals conceded (11 goals). But his defensive strategy is based on not giving the opponent the space to create pressure, rather than absorb whatever pressure they manage to create.
Between now and February 28, a lot can happen. Mumbai is not exactly in the best of form and their last six games have featured three draws and a defeat.
If they can get three points against Bengaluru on Monday, then the fact that their remaining assignments come against Jamshedpur and Odisha FC puts them in prime position.
Bagan, meanwhile, has the small matter of a Kolkata derby on Friday, one into which their rivals SC East Bengal will come in buoyant after recent successes. They then face Hyderabad FC whose chances of making it to the playoffs will likely hinge on the outcome of the match.
As tough as the tasks are, it is hard to look past Habas’ serial winners going into that final match against Mumbai, only a win away from winning the league. Chances are it will be a clash to remember. (ANI)

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SYDNEY SIXERS SIGN SHAFALI VERMA, RADHA YADAV FOR UPCOMING WBBL

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Sydney Sixers on Monday confirmed the signing of Shafali Verma and Radha Yadav for the upcoming Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL). At just 17, Verma, who in 2019 became India’s youngest ever women’s T20 international, is widely considered the best batting talent in the world and currently sits atop the ICC Women’s T20I Player Rankings. On Sunday, she scored a maiden ODI half-century with a mature knock of 56 as India upset the might Australian team, snapping a 26-game win streak.

Verma is expected to form a lethal combination with Alyssa Healy, Ellyse Perry and Ash Gardner at the top of the order for the Sixers, giving the team the most exciting top four in WBBL history.

She will also enter the world’s premier women’s domestic tournament with having a good time at the front of her mind. “This is a very good opportunity for me and my goal is to just enjoy myself, to make some new friends and have fun,” Verma said in an official release.

“I want to play WBBL and back myself and just believe in myself.” In June this year, the right-hander became the youngest player, male or female, to represent India in all three formats of international cricket before she debuted for the Birmingham Phoenix in The Hundred under Sixers’ Head Coach Ben Sawyer.

Not to be overshadowed by her teenage teammate, left-arm orthodox spinner Yadav arrives at the Sixers with a burgeoning resume of her own and sits 11th on the ICC Women’s T20I Player Rankings.

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MOEEN ALI ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT FROM TEST CRICKET

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Moeen Ali on Monday decided to call time on his Test match career. Ali, 34, made his Test debut back in 2014 and went on to represent England in 64 Test matches. He took 195 Test wickets including 5 five-wicket hauls and scored five Test match centuries during his career. Ali in an official release said: “I’m 34 now and I want to play for as long as I can and I just want to enjoy my cricket. Test cricket is amazing, when you’re having a good day it’s better than any other format by far, it’s more rewarding and you feel like you’ve really earnt it.”

“I will miss just walking out there with the lads, playing against best in the world with that feeling of nerves but also from a bowling point of view, knowing with my best ball I could get anyone out. I’ve enjoyed Test Cricket but that intensity can be too much sometimes and I feel like I’ve done enough of it and I’m happy and content with how I’ve done,” he added.

Ali hopes that his Test career will inspire and open the door for other British Muslims to play for England. Ali added: “It always takes somebody to inspire you or takes somebody to think if he can do it I can and I hope there are a few people out there who are thinking that.

“I know he wasn’t English but someone like Hashim Amla, when I first saw him, I thought if he can do it I can do it, it does take that little spark. I’d love one day in 8-10 years’ time to say Moeen made it easier for me. There have been guys before me who made it easier, so you hope to open the door for someone else,” he added.

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EXPECTING A GOOD GAME IN SHARJAH AGAINST KKR, SAYS DC BOWLING COACH HOPES

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Delhi Capitals will be looking to register their fifth consecutive win in the IPL 2021 season when they take on Kolkata Knight Riders at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.

During a virtual conference on Monday, Delhi Capitals’ bowling coach James Hopes expressed that he expects a good game against KKR since both sides are in good form at the moment. “Kolkata Knight Riders’ coach Brendon McCullum wanted his team to be more aggressive in the second half of the season and they are certainly playing the way their coach wants them to play. They are playing a very attacking style of cricket and they have match-winners throughout their line-up, guys that can turn a game around very quickly. So we’ll set up our plans according to the conditions in Sharjah and we are just going to stick to our processes. KKR are in good form and we are in good form as well, so it should be a good game,” Hopes said.

When asked about the increase in aggression by the Delhi Capitals’ bowlers in the second half of the IPL 2021 season, Hopes said, “Having Rabada and Nortje, who bowl at a speed of 150+ km/h, in our attack has really enabled us to be aggressive. The fast bowlers prepare well, plan well and they understand the conditions very well and they also look after themselves.”

Hopes further added that he expects Delhi Capitals’ off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin to have a massive impact in the tournament going forward, “Ashwin bowled beautifully the other day against Rajasthan. He put a lot of energy on the ball and I expect him to play a big part as this tournament goes forward. He’s a world-class bowler and I think he’s going to have a big impact as this tournament goes forward.”

While speaking about how the players are coping with the high temperatures in the UAE, Hopes said, “Good players always thrive in challenging conditions. They know it’s hard and we challenge our guys to actually enjoy it and play with a smile on their faces. Yes, it’s hot, but we have asked our players to embrace the heat. Great players don’t get sidetracked by conditions.”

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RCB WOULD PREFER KOHLI TO BE MORE AGGRESSIVE: STEYN

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Former South Africa and Royal Challengers Bangalore speedster Dale Steyn has said RCB would like their captain Virat Kohli to be more aggressive.“I think the guys prefer to see him be more aggressive, it seems to get him to play a bit more fluently. It kind of sparks the younger players too, a lot of the younger guys have massive respect for Virat, and they admire him so much that they kind of follow in his direction,” Dale Steyn said while talking on the Select Dugout.

“When he’s fighting fire with fire and nobody’s doing it for India, you can hear all the quicks, when they were playing against England recently, how they were talking about following their captain and they wanting to play fighting fire with fire. So, he does lead from the front in that aspect and RCB love it. He’s kind of built that thought around RCB now. It’s the kind of culture that they have got in that dressing room,” he added.

Harshal Patel’s hat-trick and three-wicket haul by Yuzvendra Chahal helped RCB defend 165 and defeat MI by 54 runs here at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday.

Earlier, Maxwell and Virat Kohli scored 56 and 51 as RCB posted 165/6 in the allotted twenty overs. Srikar Bharat also played a knock of 32 runs from 24 balls. RCB will next lock horns against Rajasthan Royals on Wednesday in the ongoing IPL.

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Roy, Williamson shine as Hyderabad beat Royals

Jason Roy and Kane Williamson played innings of 60 and 51* respectively as SunRisers Hyderabad chased the target of 165 in 18.3 overs.

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Debutant Jason Roy and captain Kane Williamson thrilled with the bat as SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) defeated Rajasthan Royals (RR) by 7 wickets in their Indian Premier League (IPL) encounter here at the Dubai International Stadium on Monday.

Jason Roy and Kane Williamson played innings of 60 and 51* respectively as SRH chased the target of 165 in 18.3 overs. Abhishek Sharma also played a crucial knock of 21* to carry his team over the victory line. For the Royals, their captain Sanju Samson played an all-important inning of 82 which in the end was just not enough. Chasing the target of 165, Hyderabad enjoyed a terrific start as their openers Jason Roy and Wriddhiman Saha amassed 57 runs in the first 5 overs. SRH duo gathered whopping 18 runs in the fifth over of Chris Morris.

RR had some respite after Mahipal Lomror struck in the last over of powerplay as he sent back Wriddhiman Saha to the pavilion. Saha walked back after scoring 18 runs off 11 balls. SRH score read 63/1 after the first six overs.Kane Williamson who joined Roy on the pitch continued the proceeding for the team in orange in the middle overs. With comfortable hammering of RR bowlers, the SRH score read 90/1 after 10 overs.

In the 11th over of the innings, all hell went loose on RR, as Jason Roy went berserk after scoring his fifty on SRH debut. Englishman along with his skipper smashed Rahul Tewatia’s over for 21 runs.

Jason Roy was sent back to the pavilion by Chetan Sakariya in the very next over. Roy walked back after scoring a superb 60 off 42. SRH had their hopes high after Mustafizur Rahman removed Priyam Garg for the first-ball duck in the 13th over.

Kane Williamson was then joined by Abhishek Sharma on the pitch and the duo brilliantly steadied the ship for SRH. The pair applied caution with delightful strokeplay and made sure to take their team over the line without any more setbacks.

In the penultimate over of the match, Kane Williamson reached his fifty after scoring back-to-back boundaries and also completed the run-chase with minimum fuss.

Kane Williamson and Abhishek Sharma remained unbeaten with scores of 51* and 21* respectively.

Earlier, Sanju Samson starred with the bat as Rajasthan Royals (RR) posted a score of 164/5 in their allotted twenty overs. Samson played an all-important inning of 82. Yashasvi Jaiswal and Mahipal Lomror also played crucial innings of 36 and 29* respectively for the team in pink.

Siddarth Kaul scalped two wickets, while Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma and Rashid Khan returned with one wicket each for SRH.Opting to bat first, RR had a shaky start after their star opener Evin Lewis walked back to the dressing room in the second over of the innings. Bhuvneshwar Kumar struck on his first ball as Abdul Samad caught Lewis on the fence.

Yashasvi Jaiswal and Sanju Samson then steadied the ship for the team in pink as the duo gathered 49 runs in the first powerplay. The pair continued with their carnage in the middle overs. In the 9th over, Sandeep Sharma got the important breakthrough for SRH as he broke the dangerous-looking stand between Jaiswal and RR skipper. Jaiswal walked back to the pavilion after scoring 36 off 23 balls.

Rashid Khan struck in 11th over for SRH as he removed struggling Liam Livingstone. Abdul Samad caught Livingstone in the deep. Amid this, Sanju Samson continued mixing his caution with some delightful strokeplay. Royals skipper soon crossed the 50 run mark in the 16th over of the innings. RR gathered 20 runs in that over.

Siddarth Kaul removed Samson in the last over of the innings. Sanju Samson walked back for 82 off 57 balls. Riyan Parag also got out in that last over as SRH managed to finish on a high at the end of innings. Rajasthan Royals (RR) innings ended on 164/5.

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Durand Cup: Mohammedan enter final after beating Bengaluru in hard-fought SF

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Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], September 27 (ANI): Century old local favourites Mohammedan Sporting (MDSP), overcame FC Bengaluru United (FCBU) 4-2 in the semi-finals of the 130th Durand Cup on Monday here at Kolkata’s Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK), to make their sixth finals of the iconic tournament.
Goals from Marcus Joseph, Faisal Ali, Brandon Vanlalremdika and Nikola Stojanovic made sure the Black Panthers quest for a third Durand title remained on course, despite a shock start to the game which saw FCBU talisman Pedro Manzi give his side the lead as early as 22 seconds into the game.
The scoreline, in the end, was a bit flattering for MDSP with United ending the game with 10-men and after tying 2-2 in regulation time. Sporting scored in each half of extra time to get the result, the close to 25000 local fans gathered at the stadium wanted.
MDSP gaffer Andrey Chernyshov went in with his trusted eleven and 4-4-2 formation in front of vociferous local support from the stands. Richard Hood the FCBU coach, started with a similar formation but with a first start of the tournament to Anup Theres Raj at left-back. Sanju Pradhan also started on the bench.
It could not have begun better for United with a move down the right flank involving Yumnam Gopi Singh straight after kick-off finding Manzi in space on top of the box. He was given a second bite of the cherry by the Sporting defence and made no mistake with a booming drive giving keeper Zothanmawia no chance.
The Panthers were stung and responded with ferocity. Milan Singh had the first good shot at goal but it was the inimitable Trinidadian Marcus who was destined to equalize for Sporting.
It was another one from the left of the box cutting across the keeper with his left foot. A trademark now almost. It was his fifth in this edition’s Durand putting him in running for the golden boot of the tournament for the second year running.
The Mohammedan attack line led by Serbian Nikola Stojanovic and ably supported by the likes of Azharuddin Mallik, Sk. Faiaz, Faisal and Marcus were displaying some slick football and stitched together quite a few attractive moves.
From one such move, Marcus found Faisal in the clear inside the box on the left and the youngster came up with a clinical finish, beating Kunzang Bhutia for the second time in the game.
The second half began as the first had ended with MDSP looking to take most of the initiatives. Quite against the run of play then, Kingshuk Debnath, a local boy, got Bengaluru back in the game, slotting home from a melee off a corner.
However, with a minute into added time, Manzi was shown red after a second bookable offence forcing Hood to bring in team fitness coach cum player Chelston Pinto to help his team fight through 30 minutes of extra time.
The change which made all the difference though was the one made by Chernyshov in the 83rd minute when he had brought on the pacy Brandon Vanlalremdika to replace Sk. Faiaz on the right.
The diminutive winger peppered the 10-man United defence in the second half with Stojanovic providing him ample support and supply.
In one such move in the dying stages of the first 15 minutes of extra-time, the Serbian found him in the clear inside the box. The Mizo had quite a bit to do with two defenders challenging him. He shrugged them off with two deft body feints, first inside then outside and unleashed a grounder with pin-point accuracy to beat Bhutia.
The final goal of the contest was fittingly scored by Stojanovic who blasted a penalty past Bhutia in the 110th minute of the game for a resounding scoreline for the local team. Marcus Joseph was adjudged the Man of the Match. (ANI)

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