Bold Jamshedpur provide blueprint to beat Habas and ATK Mohun Bagan

Nerijus Valskis celebrates after putting Jamshedpur 2-0 up against ATK Mohun Bagan. Deepak Malik / Sportzpics for ISL

It's been 323 days.

Even in a year like 2020, where the concept of time has been warped beyond recognition for everybody, this is the measurable interval between Jamshedpur FC's last win and their latest, a rollicking 2-1 result that brought ATK Mohun Bagan's winning run to a halt.

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It's also 268 days since the closed doors final last season in Margao, where Owen Coyle's team were outwitted by Antonio Habas despite a Nerijus Valskis strike. On Monday, at the Tilak Maidan in Vasco, Coyle and Valskis enjoyed a spot of sweet revenge, though it won't compensate for the lost silverware.

And they did it by denying Habas what his teams want the most of -- time. On the ball, off the ball, working passes around. It was workmanlike at times, but inspired all the way through.

Coyle has brought a bit of Chennaiyin into Jamshedpur this season, even though they had just the two points to show from their first three games. The likes of Jackichand Singh, Mobashir Rahman and William Lalnunfela provide the work rate in midfield that the Indian players in Chennaiyin were famous for. Full backs Ricky Lallawmawma and Laldinliana are feisty, never ones to back away from a tackle. ATKMB contributed to their own downfall to an extent on Monday, with a defensive lineup where Roy Krishna was often the only possible outlet for any attacking play. Wing backs Prabir Das and Subhashish Bose had one of their quieter outings, but a midfield of Glan Martins, Carl McHugh and Brad Inman should still have been able to boss possession the way Habas likes.

That's where Jamshedpur were outstanding, especially in the first half. By half time, ATKMB had started shading possession, but Jamshedpur had already pumped three times as many shots, and five times as many on target. One of them, from Valskis, found the net past Arindam Bhattacharya, and culminated a phase of play where Jamshedpur routinely dropped passes in behind the wing backs, and then exploited the relative lack of pace of Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan and Tiri in deep defence.

There were furrowed brows in the ATKMB ranks -- and furious shakes of the head from Habas -- in the first 45 minutes, and they were always going to come hard in the second period. That Habas left the introduction of Manvir Singh till as late as the hour mark suggested Coyle had already thrown his counterpart off his preferred wait-and-watch strategy. The game turned around for ATKMB, who ended up with more shots in the total tally, but TP Rehenesh had a cracking game in goal. Valskis took advantage of some poor marking to get his second goal, and that cushion was to prove pivotal as Krishna gave Habas the mandatory late goal that has become ATKMB's signature.

That said, we began the second week of December games with a serious question: how does one stop ATKMB this season?

We got the answer rather quicker than anticipated, and from a source that shouldn't have surprised us.

Coyle's teams always do it this way in the ISL -- be brave, encourage the younger players, take the attack to your opponent, and kill off chances that present themselves. Will other coaches note this blueprint and adopt it for themselves?

Time will tell. And it won't take 268 or 323 days this time.

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