ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Juan Ferrando credited his players for winning the Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 final against Bengaluru FC as they fought till the end registering a 4-3 win in the penalty shootout against Bengaluru FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Saturday.
Sunil Chhetri cancelled out a Dimitri Petratos penalty on the stroke of half-time before Roy Krishna gave the Blues the lead late on in the game. But the Australian scored his second penalty of the night to make it 2-2 and send the game into extra time.
Neither team had their shooting boots on in extra time as the game ventured into the penalty shootout where the Mariners came out on top.
It was a topsy-turvy ride for ATK Mohun Bagan throughout the season and the final game was a reflection of the same. The team fought with the injuries during the game, the coach changed the formation and positions after conceding the second goal. Irrespective of the situation, players gave everything on the field and became champions.
"Everybody knows that the game was very difficult. After the 1-2 score, the team was in difficult moments, (we had) injuries, and physical problems but at the end of the day, they were fighting. They were fighting till the last minute. After 2-2, we tried to win the match in the extra team also. This cup is for the players. Sometimes, it is necessary to explain the reasons for what happened because the players trusted this team, and the players wanted to do their best till the end. They won the trophy," Ferrando said in the post-match press conference.
"Obviously today I'm happy because we won the trophy, but people forget difficult matches. The team has shown good character and motivation in all those difficult moments. Of course, we need to improve and change a lot of things. But showing character is the most important and basic thing in football. (They did that),"he added.
When Krishna put the Blues in lead in the 78th minute, Ferrando made two substitutions immediately, Kiyan Nassiri Giri and Federico Gallego were brought in by the Spaniard. And seven minutes later, Nassiri won a penalty for the Mariners and the team came back into the game just minutes before the end of their regular time. The ATKMB head coach explained the reason behind the tactics and appreciated players for the belief they had in the process.
"We are thinking about our existence. We decided to change the plan, change the system. We did substitutions and we got the second penalty by changing the plan. it's part of football, it takes just one mistake (to win or lose)," he said.
"We played against one good team. Don't forget that this squad has very good experienced players. They won the Durand cup, in the second leg, they were amazing but it was a very difficult match for us because our form was up and down before (coming into the final) but the players trusted the process. It's a difficult moment but at the end of the day, players decide to fight. And it's not only today, but they have also fought throughout the season," the ATKMB head coach commented.
With this dramatic win, ATK Mohun Bagan have won their first-ever ISL trophy. The Mariners finished the regular season in the third position, they entered the final by beating the reigning champion Hyderabad FC and got a victory over former champions Bengaluru FC in the final. The Mariners were one of the favourites to clinch the title at the start of the season but the credentials came under doubt thanks to injuries and resultant inconsistent form.
"I am happy because the team, the people in the club, trust me in difficult moments, and also the players, in difficult moments, wanted to do the best. They were working very hard in training. Obviously, we reached the final and won the trophy. I think it's good for them, for me. But now, we have to keep calm and take a breath and tomorrow we can start to improve because we need to improve a lot of things. So this is the most important for us," he added.
"Now everybody is happy. But the players know that from Monday, we will start talking about the super cup. It's important to win the super cup. This is the reason why I am in this club. Ofcourse, we improve on the details. We try to do our best in the super cup and win. We are here for this reason," he concluded.
Pritam Kotal, the ATK Mohun Bagan captain accompanied Ferrando in the post-match press conference. Kotal played a vital role in the title-winning campaign. The 29-year-old took the winning penalty in the semi-final and helped the team to win its first ISL trophy. Kotal expressed his joy in lifting the silverware once again.
"We believed in ourselves, even when we were trailing 1-2. Then we scored one, we just kept going and went into the penalty shootout. I personally believed that Vishal Kaith would save one or two. It was an emotional moment for me personally because as a captain it's my first trophy. So congratulations to everyone in the club," he said.
Kotal has played two back-to-back 120 minutes of football within a week. In the final, Kotal started as a centre back then shifted to left-back before playing as a centre-back again. Despite the change in tactics and positions, the Bengal player remained solid in the back line and helped the team win the trophy. The ATKMB captain appreciated the combined efforts of the players.
"Coach had a plan and changed the system. At the moment we have a problem with some injuries on the ground and then he asked me to play the left back. I said, okay and I did my job properly. Now the only thing is that we lift the trophy as a team. We fought as a team for 120 minutes. It's not easy, we believed in ourselves, and we won" he concluded. (ANI)