Hyderabad FC travel to Kolkata to face ATK Mohun Bagan in the second leg of the Indian Super League semi-final on Monday, March 13 at Salt Lake Stadium. Here’s how Hyderabad FC can reach the ISL final:
What is the situation?
The defending champions played out an entertaining 0-0 draw in the first leg in Hyderabad, with both sides now requiring a win to go through. A draw at the end of full time will result in extra time (as away goals are no longer a factor), with penalties to follow if the teams are still deadlocked after that period. Hyderabad have only beaten ATK Mohun Bagan twice in their history, both times at home.
The defending champions lost the second leg of their semi-final against ATKMB last season, with Laxmikant Kattimani putting in a stellar performance to keep the score at 0-1. To defeat ATKMB this time, Manolo Márquez’s team will have to create their own part of history.
ATKMB have an impressive record at home (7 wins in 10 home games this season), but they face the second best visiting team in the league in Hyderabad (7 wins in 10 away games this season).
Grab the attacking momentum early on, courtesy of a top-of-the-line Bart Ogbeche.
With the game featuring the two best defenses in the country, it was not a huge surprise to see Hyderabad maintain their form from the start. However, with Bart Ogbeche expected to shrug off the little punch he carried in game one, Manolo Márquez has an ace up his sleeve in Kolkata.
The defending champions created chances, taking 14 shots of which only three were on target (xG 0.54, xGOT 0.67). However, with Javi Siverio to run quite a bit (as Ogbeche was not quite fit) against Slavko Damjanovic and Pritam Kotal, he had very little left in the tank. Márquez can also work around this by pushing Borja Herrera up a bit, at least initially. It will give Ogbeche the opportunity to do what he does best: occupy the small spaces and get the ball into the back of the net. A central threat could catch ATK Mohun Bagan off guard, and an early lead could give Hyderabad the upper hand.
Hyderabad’s ability to defend a lead is unparalleled – they have only dropped points once after taking the lead all season, which was an inconsequential game at home against Jamshedpur FC late in the season.
Defend the long balls and neutralize the aerial threat of ATKMB
Juan Ferrando noted that with the Hyderabad fullbacks always pushing high up the pitch, his team resorted to long balls into the spaces vacated by them in an attempt to pummel Hyderabad on the counter-attack. Odei Onaindia and Chinglensana Singh dealt with most of those aerial balls, but Márquez’s suffered a bit from set pieces, which could require Joao Víctor coming into the flank to offer a bigger presence than Herrera’s.
Márquez is unlikely to change his team’s best attacking mode of Akash Mishra and Nikhil Poojari, but he can ask Sahil Tavora to dive deeper so the Hyderbad centre-backs are well prepared to deal with attacks on the canals.
If ATKMB opts otherwise and moves centrally through Dimi Petratos, the need for Victor’s defensive midfield presence becomes even more important.
Maximize Mohammad Yasir’s ability to create space
Mohammad Yasir was arguably the best attacking player on the pitch in the previous game, and he got plenty of changes by taking on Subhasish Bose on Hyderabad’s right flank. Even if ATKMB pairs him with Puitea, Yasir’s ability to evade his markers and slice inside will cause a lot of chaos. Hyderabad’s forwards tend to veer into the middle spaces in the left channel, but perhaps it would be better to veer into the right channel and use Yasir’s ability to lure the defenders.
Siverio and Ogbeche sliding to the right could also push defenders away, and Yasir’s ability with long-range shots when in space is well known. Focusing on attacks on the right could also lead to overload with a quick change of play to one of Halicharan Narzary and Akash Mishra down the left flank, with Asish Rai in danger of being caught out of position.
What did the coach say?
“Everyone knows that we play 4-2-3-1 and that is the formation we keep. We don’t change much, and I think that when things work it’s better not to change. It will depend in the first few minutes who scores the first goal, whether it’s ATK Mohun Bagan or us because obviously the other team has to attack and it will ultimately open the game.”
“We want to be brave from the first minute, but we are up against one of the best teams in India. Sometimes you want to attack but the opponent is strong and has quality players. I don’t know if they will recover.” Players like Ashique (Kuruniyan) or (Glan) Martins, they have a very good team, so let’s see.”