Pressure, Mistakes & Hard Luck – A tale of missed opportunities for Maharashtra

Despite some impressive performances, Maharashtra’s campaign in the Final Round of the Hero Santosh Trophy was marred by some unfortunate setbacks that ultimately proved to be their undoing.

A positive performance in the qualifying round where the team finished second in the group, had raised the expectations of fans. So it wasn’t surprising that despite the presence of defending champions Kerala and football powerhouse Goa in the group, many believed Maharashtra had a genuine chance to make it to the Semi-final.

The Campaign

Maharashtra started their campaign with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against the host Odisha, with Armash Ansari scoring for Maharashtra. In their second match, Maharashtra suffered a heart-breaking 4-3 loss to Punjab, after conceding a penalty in injury time. Against defending champion Maharashtra put on an impressive attacking display but lost a 3-goal lead to share the spoils. The story repeated against Karnataka before ending the campaign finally with a win against a struggling Goa.

Maharashtra finished with a respectable record of one win, three draws, and one loss, they were unable to progress to the semi-finals.

The Problems – Mistakes under pressure and unfortunate tryst with Luck

If one takes a look at what went wrong for Maharashtra, it was quite evident that the team’s defense struggled in the final moments of the matches. Under continuous pressure, the Maharashtra defense appeared to have difficulty maintaining focus, resulting in lapses of concentration, mistakes that could have been avoided, and just poor man-marking in crucial moments. The team ended up conceding the second-most number of goals (14) in the league.

In the five matches played, Maharashtra entered the final twenty minutes of the game with at least a goal lead in all five and yet they ended the match with either a draw or a loss in four of them.

In the match against Punjab, Maharashtra conceded a penalty in injury time that led to their defeat. Against Karnataka, Maharashtra conceded a goal from a throw-in right in the last second of the game that denied them victory. Better game management would have helped them secure a crucial three points, instead, they ended with just one.

While on one hand defensive errors cost them dearly, on the other luck too didn’t show any favors as was seen in the game against Kerala. Maharashtra lost a three-goal lead in the space of 11 minutes with the referee playing spoilsport, where a penalty and the fourth goal (equalizer) scored by Kerala were both results of poor refereeing.

Read More: Poor Refereeing decisions steal the show in the Kerala-Maharashtra clash

Himanshu Patil, Armash Ansari stepped up big time in the absence of top scorer Arif Shaikh

The Positives – The attack and the playing style

While Maharashtra may not have made it to the final leg their campaign was marked by some exceptional performances that showcased their attacking prowess. Although they missed the services of their star striker, Arif Shaikh, who was the top scorer in the qualifiers, other players like Armash Ansari, Himanshu Patil, and Sufiyan Shaikh rose to the occasion, demonstrating their versatility and determination. The team ended the final round with the highest number of goals scored (13), a testament to their impressive attacking moves.

Moreover, Maharashtra’s youngsters shone bright, with Johnson Mathews and Armash Ansari leading the charge in the attack. Their quick feet and skillful maneuvers kept the opposition defenders on their toes throughout the tournament. While Ansari impressed with his goal contributions, Mathews starred with his pinpoint crosses and free-kicks. Their performances not only impressed the spectators but also earned them accolades from the critics.

The Maharashtra team’s style of play was captivating, as they played an exciting brand of football with an emphasis on attacking play. Their fluid movements, creative passing, and lethal finishing made them a joy to watch for neutral fans.

The attacking gameplay and youngsters’ performance were the big positives for Maharashtra

Future is bright

Former Maharashtra defender, Hekmat Singh, praised the team’s spirit and aggressive approach. He specifically credited Coach Steven Dias, for bringing in a refreshing change in the team’s playing style. Singh also expressed hope that this new pattern of play would continue, leading to a possible Santosh Trophy victory in the future. “The way Maharashtra attacked and moved in the opponent area was definitely a refreshing approach from the team. It’s just the beginning of this type of play from the Coach. Hope the coach continues with the same pattern of play – if the aggression in attack and hard work of the players is maintained, then Maharashtra will surely lift the Santosh Trophy in coming years”

While there were some areas where the team needs to improve, the overall performance was promising, and with a continued focus on attacking play and teamwork, the team has the potential to achieve greater success in the future.

Also Read: Meghalaya create history, enter Hero Santosh Trophy semi-finals for first time

Also Read: Santosh Trophy 2022-23: Maharashtra ends their campaign with a win

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