ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Juan Ferrando expressed happiness with his side's attacking mentality throughout the entire 120 minutes as the Mariners beat Hyderabad FC on penalties in the second leg of the Indian Super League (ISL) semi-final at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, in Kolkata, on Monday.
The second leg saw both teams trying their best to outsmart each other with half-chances falling to both teams from the beginning. Neither side was able to score after 120 minutes of football in Kolkata.
The match was decided in the penalty shootout with Javier Siverio and Bartholomew Ogbeche missing for Hyderabad FC. ATK Mohun Bagan captain Pritam Kotal scored the winning penalty to help his side qualify for the ISL final.
The high-stake second leg clash was a cagey affair for the whole of 120 minutes with three shots on target for the home side and only one for Manolo Marquez's side.
Fernando shed light on how the team's mentality remained the same for the whole match and he was pleased with his players' efforts.
"Our plan was the same all the time, in the whole match the team tried to attack and create chances. We were unlucky to not convert but I am happy that the team tried their best. After the 75th-minute mark, it was obvious for the players to get tired, it was difficult to make substitutions because you do not know whether the match is going to end in 90 minutes or go to the extra time for 120 minutes. Our mentality was the same all the time, to win and attack," Ferrando said in the post-match press conference as quoted by an ISL press release.
With both semi-finals being decided by penalties, the ISL has taken the fans on an emotional rollercoaster at best. Ferrando explained how he asked his players to keep their emotions in check and the advantage of penalties.
"I was talking to my players to give them the details and explain tactical points. All the messages and feedback were positive, we tried to trust in our way, in ourselves. It is very important for the players to control their emotions because they were very tired, it is not easy, it was the same for us and for Hyderabad FC and one mistake can be a great opportunity for the opponents. Penalties are like a coin, we do not like to conclude the whole season based on that but it is part of football," Ferrando said.
The home team were backed by their passionate supporters, who cheered the Mariners on every move. In the end, Ferrando's side delivered by booking their ticket for the final in the most nerve-racking style. Ferrando thanked the fans for coming out to support the team and requested them to travel to Goa for the final.
"We are very happy because I know when we play at home the supporters are very close to the players and the support is amazing. In some moments of the match when the players are tired and not feeling fresh, the supporters tried to help the players and we're very happy that we have reached the final while playing at home. The mood and the vibes are great and now we are looking forward to Saturday. I hope the fans are traveling to Goa for the final and the atmosphere for ATK Mohun Bagan is going to be fantastic," Ferrando stated.
ATK Mohun Bagan will now take on Bengaluru FC for the ultimate prize in the ISL Final. Both teams have secured a victory each while playing against each other in the league stage. The Mariners' head coach talked about the quality that the Blues possess and expressed his 100 per cent trust in his team.
"For the opponents, we know when we played them (Bengaluru FC) away we won and when they came here, they won against us so it's going to be an interesting match in the final. They have a very good squad with very good players. I hope we play much better as a team and we will have chances if we play as a team. We have time to prepare the plan and this team is ready to play with 2-3 different plans and I have 100 per cent trust in my team," Ferrando concluded.
Vishal Kaith accompanied Ferrando in the post-match conference. The Mariners' custodian was rewarded with the Hero of the match for his brilliant saves throughout the match and saved Javier Siverio's penalty to give the lead to the home team in the penalty shootout. The 26-year-old became the first goalkeeper to keep 12 clean sheets in a single ISL season. Kaith thanked his goalkeeping coach for helping him with the all crucial information in the penalty shootout.
"When the match went to the penalties, I had a discussion with the goalkeeper coach and he had the information of which player shoots where and that helped me a lot. So I would like to thank my goalkeeping coach because of whom it was easier for me to do my part," Kaith said in the post-match conference.
To keep the league's second-highest scoring team silent takes some doing and the Mariners were at their best to keep the clean sheets in both legs of the semi-final. Kaith was thankful to his teammates for their hard work for the whole match and showed gratitude to the fans for their support while requesting them to come and support the team in the final.
"First of all I would like to thank my teammates who worked hard throughout the 120 minutes to not concede the goal and then I would like to thank all the supporters for their support. I would request them to come for the final because the more supporters we have the better it gets for us," Kaith stated.
The Mariners came strong when it was needed the most, from sitting at the sixth position at one point in the league table to finishing at the third spot with three straight victories in the last three matches of the league stages. Kaith highlighted the team's hard work and belief that helped them to turn around things in their favour.
"We had some ups and downs in our form in the mid of the season but that's usual for all the teams. We had two-three matches where the results were not in our favour but then we made the comeback and for that, the whole team deserves the credit, not only me. Every player gave their best because there are always ups and downs but the more important thing is to know how to make a comeback, so I would like to highlight the team's hard work which made all of this possible," Kaith said. (ANI)