To overcome a two-goal deficit in order to seal a second straight final, ATK Mohun Bagan will have to win against buoyant Hyderabad FC in the second leg of the Hero Indian Super League semifinal at the Athletic Stadium, here on Wednesday.
Hyderabad ran out 3-1 winners against ATKMB 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.
ATKMB were on a 15-game unbeaten run before losing to League Shield winners Jamshedpur FC in the final league encounter before facing another defeat to 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 semi-finals and finals than any other player in the history of the Hero ISL. He has scored a goal or provided an assist in each of his last six semifinal 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. ATKMB will 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.
“This is the first time in history we are playing in the semifinal. We have experienced players but we have young players too. So that was one area we worked on. They were very dangerous as they have very good players. We have to try to win because we know if we enter the pitch to defend only, it will be very difficult.
Ogbeche equalled Coro’s record of most goals in a Hero ISL season with his 18th goal of the season. He now needs one more goal to set a new record.