ISL 2022-23: Defences on top as Hyderabad, ATK Mohun Bagan play out entertaining draw

Slavko Damjanovic blocks a shot from Borja Herrera as Manvir Singh looks on. Vipin Pawar /Focus Sports/ ISL

Hyderabad FC and ATK Mohun Bagan played out a goalless draw at the GMC Gachibowli Stadium in the first leg of their Indian Super League (ISL) semifinal. The two teams face off in the second leg on March 13 at the Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata.

Rapid Reaction

1. Defences on top, as expected

It was a semifinal between the two best defences in the league, and despite Manolo Marquez' pre-match assertion (twice) that a knockout game could make this a high-scoring affair, it was anything but. That's not to say it was a dull, drab affair. Both ATK Mohun Bagan and Hyderabad FC did not overtly sit back - but rather, the defences that were simply too well-organised, along with a sprinkling of luck.

The organization was also visible in the disciplinary record of this game - there were no yellow cards and the sole flashpoint between Slavko Damjanovic and Borja Herrera was extinguished as quickly as it flared up. Both sides remained keenly aware that this was a two-legged tie and kept their shape incredibly well.

Even when Juan Ferrando and Marquez rang in the changes in the second half, there were no new gaps as the substitutes slotted into their roles with ease. Odei Onaindia and Damjanovic marshalled their defences incredibly well, with not much space on offer. It was telling that both Dimi Petratos and Bart Ogbeche - two of the canniest forwards in the league had no space to create nor score.

2. Fine margins decide the game

Football's a game of inches... and the cliché proved true tonight. Had Joel Chianese's early header gone an inch wider, or Vishal Kaith gotten down to the ball a bit slower, Hyderabad would have taken the lead. Had Mo Yasir's peach of a long-ranger curled a bit lesser, the ball would have nestled in the bottom corner.

Manvir Singh and Pritam Kotal also spurned gilt-edged chances to score for ATK Mohun Bagan with the former guilty of going for goal with Petratos in acres of space in the box. The last three games between these two teams finished by a one-goal margin, and on another day, this game could very well have ended 1-0 to either side. It's perhaps a reflection of this being the first leg and both managers being a bit cautious.

3. The second leg could be vastly different

Both managers had their fair share of issues with the squad, with Juan Ferrando without Ashique Kuruniyan, and Brendan Hamill and Kiyan Nassiri likely to be fully fit for the second leg. Bart Ogbeche also did not look as match-sharp as he usually does, which could be a different scenario come March 13.

With away goals no longer a factor, both sides might be a bit more open to attack. ATKMB's prime mode of attack here was long balls to catch Hyderabad's fullbacks high up the pitch, which Marquez can easily solve. Petratos' best spells this season have come while dropping deep and perhaps Ferrando may revert to his penchant for progressing centrally.

Hyderabad will have to face the noise of the Salt Lake stadium in the second leg, but they also have seven away wins this season, second only to Mumbai's eight victories on the road. With Ogbeche set to be fit enough to start from the off, and with open spaces likely to exist in this game, expect Saint Bart to deliver once more.

Best performers


- Slavko Damjanovic, DF, ATK Mohun Bagan: You would be forgiven for thinking Javier Siverio did not play this game for Hyderabad, such was Damjanovic's aura around defending the ATKMB box. He was first to every duel, positioned perfectly, with rarely an inch afforded to Hyderabad's forwards. The reward for his brave performance was a black eye, with the Montenegrin ironically appearing the most fearful in his post-match interview and not facing up to the opposition.

- Mohammad Yasir, FW, Hyderabad FC: It wasn't just the incredible long-range strike that hit the post. Yasir was a livewire throughout in a game where the defences reigned supreme. Impudent flicks, cute nutmegs and bursting past defenders were a regular feature.

- Carl McHugh, MF, ATK Mohun Bagan: It could easily also have been Borja Herrera in here, with both players having almost identical games. Incredibly secure in possession, the midfielders also did their fair share of defending and snuffing out goals.

- Manolo Marquez, HC, Hyderabad FC: 100% tackle percentage, best moment of the game. The Hyderabad FC coach ghosted in behind Subhashish Bose and flicked the ball away with his hand before kicking it to Nikhil Poojari for a quick throw-in. Showing 'em how its done.

After the match: What the players/managers said

Juan Ferrando, head coach, ATK Mohun Bagan FC:

"We are not happy, but we accept that we played against the second best team in the ISL. I think [the performance] was like our season. In some moments it was good, we created the spaces, controlled the ball in the moments of attack, buildup. Sometimes, the team was out of the match, like our season. We are not [consistent] in the 90 minutes. I think it's normal, the player were tired. Kiyan [Nassiri] had fever, two keepers on the bench. Sometimes you have to accept that the team did the best in difficult situations."

Manolo Marquez, head coach, Hyderabad FC:

"When you play at home the first leg and the score is 0-0 you can't be happy. But we played with a lot of order. There were not many clear chances. This was more of a tactical game [than anything else]."

"I can't understand why we have to play the second game in Kolkata but I don't want excuses about anything. We have to go to Kolkata and win the game and we know they are a very strong team when they play at home. [But they are confident, because] we are a good team and we have lost only 2 games away [in the league]. Yes, we won seven games away and six at home. We got more points paying away, but this is another situation. This is a semifinal."