Of all the Mohun Bagan signings this season, Anwar Ali has impressed the most. The India defender, who turns 23 later this month, is a class apart. He was brilliant against Emami East Bengal last week but all his good work came to naught due to Nandhakumar Sekar’s goal.
On Wednesday though, Anwar had his moment under the lights.
Not only did he defend well, Anwar also had two goals (38th and 86th) for his new club. Both towering headers from set-pieces that beat his markers hands down.
In the end, the 3-1 result in favour of Bagan against Machhindra FC in the AFC Cup preliminary stage match at the Salt Lake Stadium looked fair. Bagan now face Abahani Dhaka, who earlier in the day defeated Club Eagles of Maldives 2-1 in a qualifier in Sylhet, here on Tuesday.
Jason Cummings got the second a minute before the hour-mark. Pierre Oloumou of the visitors scored a gem of a goal from a free-kick in the 78th minute to reduce the margin.
The evening was all about Ali’s brace and Bagan’s misses. Hugo Boumous, Sahal Abdul Samad, Ashique Kuruniyan, Cummings, Anirudh Thapa... everyone failed to convert.
Samad shot straight to goalkeeper and captain Bishal Shrestha, Cummings failed to connect with an empty net in front of him... the list is endless.
Ali’s first came off a Boumous corner and the second off a Dimitri Petratos free-kick. No wonder, in the pre-match news conference, coach Juan Ferrando rated Ali as one of the top-three central defenders in the country.