The 2022-23 edition of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) is set to see ATK Mohun Bagan face Bengaluru FC in the final at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Saturday.

Having reached their second Hero ISL final in three years, the Mariners are a win away from lifting their first-ever Hero ISL title.

Whereas, the Blues have reached the summit clash for the third time and will be aiming to win the trophy for the second time after doing so in 2018-19.  

The two sides reached the final after beating Hyderabad FC and Mumbai City FC respectively in the semis.

Here are the key takeaways from both semi-finals.

Shootout misery for top two

The fate of both semi-finals was decided via a penalty shootout.

Bengaluru FC overcame Mumbai City FC 1-0 at the Mumbai Football Arena before losing out 2-1 at home. The tie went into the penalties after being tied at 2-2 on aggregate. Mehtab Singh failed at the end of a marathon penalty shootout as the Blues won 9-8 on penalties and dashed the Islanders’ double hopes.

ATK Mohun Bagan were the superior side against Hyderabad FC over the two legs. The Mariners earned a valuable 0-0 draw in the first leg in Hyderabad. But despite dominating the proceedings at home they failed to find the back of the net. The tie ended 0-0 on aggregate and drama arrived with the spot-kicks. Javier Siverio and Bartholomew Ogbeche missed penalties for Hyderabad FC as the Kolkata club won the second semi-final 4-3 in the penalty shootout.

The teams that finished first and second in the league phase and achieved a direct qualification to the semi-finals, failed to make the cut in the finals.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu comes out big

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu showed his worth once again for Bengaluru FC. The Blues managed to win 1-0 against the League Shield Winners in the first leg of the first semi-final, thanks to a solid defensive performance and Sandhu’s quality saves. India’s No 1 goalkeeper made three saves in the first leg and carried that form in the return leg.

Sandhu kept out Greg Stewart’s spot kick and a follow-up from Lallianzuala Chhangte inside the opening quarter of the second leg and kept the lead intact for his side. The Blues custodian made six saves that night before denying Mehtab Singh in the penalty shootout to allow Sandesh Jhingan to score the winner.

Wasteful Mumbai City FC bow out

The League Shield Winners created numerous chances but remained wasteful in front of the goal across the two legs. They dominated the show in Mumbai with 23 shots, but only three of them were on target. Des Buckingham’s side had to compensate for the missed opportunities as they went down 1-0 in the first leg.

In the second leg, they came out with a more attacking brand of football. Mumbai City FC won the return leg 2-1, and levelled the scoreline on aggregate, but failed to hold their nerves in the shootout.

The Islanders could’ve and should’ve easily scored a couple more goals inside the regulation time given the number of chances they created. They attempted 24 more shots in the return leg but only eight of them were on target.

The likes of Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Greg Stewart who were instrumental in their Shield triumph failed to replicate their league-stage form in the semi-finals and that proved to be the reason behind their exit.

Juan Ferrando got his tactics right

When the line-ups of the first leg were announced, Ferrando’s decision to start Slavko Damjanovic over Brendan Hamill raised some eyebrows as the Australian centre-back was a standout performer for ATK Mohun Bagan throughout the season.

The Serbian defender was immense across the two legs as the Mariners dumped Hyderabad FC out of the title contention. His influence was clear to see as he kept one of the most dangerous strikers of the Hero ISL off the scoresheet. It was his leadership and ability to marshall the defence that kept HFC at bay in the two-legged semi-final.

The decision to opt for the in-form Damjanovic paid off for the Spanish tactician and the January signings have certainly added quality to the ATKMB side.

Hyderabad FC attackers were isolated

Hyderabad FC were the second-best team across both legs. Their attackers looked subdued and there was really no way they were going to find an opening against ATK Mohun Bagan’s tough defence.

The energy shown by the Mariners in the return leg was too much for Manolo Marquez’s side, who looked tired and toothless up front. To put Hyderabad FC's struggles into further context, they managed just four shots on target across 210 minutes. 

Plus, the defensive pair of Pritam Kotal and Damjanovic made it even more difficult for HFC. But, as a whole, Marquez’s men did very little to threaten the Mariners in the semi-finals.