ATK Mohun Bagan will have to play out of their skins against an all-round Hyderabad FC in the second leg of the Hero Indian Super League semi-final at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim on Wednesday.
Hyderabad ran out 3-1 winners against ATK Mohun Bagan in the first leg, putting one foot in the final which would be their first-ever, capping off a stellar season where they spent most of the time at the top of the table.
ATK Mohun Bagan were on a 15-game unbeaten streak before losing to League Shield winners Jamshedpur FC in the final league encounter. Then they faced another defeat at the hands of Hyderabad, derailing their dream run under Juan Ferrando who replaced Antonio Habas midway into the season.
“In football, everything is possible. It is not so easy but it is not impossible,” Ferrando said on the eve of the game.
“We will see a plan for Hyderabad, but for me most important is to plan for ourselves and try to change the score. We have these moments which were not easy, but it is necessary to prepare a plan. The most important thing is the mentality. It has not been easy for us in the last month but we will try as best as we can,” the Spaniard added.
For the Mariners, Roy Krishna will prove to be the key to get his team the goals and the Fijian talisman has found his scoring boots of late. Krishna has more goal contributions in the semis and finals than any other player in the history of the ISL. He has scored a goal or provided an assist in each of his last six semi-final and final matches in the competition.
“For me, he is a very important player. He can create space and use it and that is most important for me,” Ferrando said about Krishna.
ATK Mohun Bagan will, however, miss the services of Tiri who got injured in the first leg.
Hyderabad will guard themselves from complacency as they know if they do the basics right and defend well, they can play their maiden final on March 20.
Bartholomew Ogbeche has continued his rich vein of form, scoring his 18th goal of the season in the first leg. The Nigerian has been in the form of his life, staying put at the top of the goalscoring charts for almost the entire season.
“I am very happy with the result in the first leg. They played better than us in the first 30 minutes. We recovered after that.
“They have very good players and they have improved. We have a good advantage with two goals but it will be difficult for sure. We will have a chance to qualify but it won’t be easy,” Hyderabad head coach Manolo Marquez said.
Kerala in final
Kerala Blasters FC shared honours with Jamshedpur FC playing out a 1-1 draw at Tilak Maidan Stadium on Tuesday, but rode on two top-draw defensive displays to defeat the League Shield winners 2-1 on aggregate over two legs. The result helped them to qualify for their first Indian Super League final since 2016.
Adrian Luna (18th) opened the scoring for Kerala before Pronay Halder (50th) pulled one back for the Red Miners who needed one more goal to take the game to extra-time. But another solid performance by the Kerala backline ensured they made the final.
In the first leg, Sahal Abdul Samad scored the only goal in a 1-0 win for Kerala who made it to their third ISL final.