Hyderabad FC season review: From 'best among the rest' to being the very best

If the phrase  “you score one, we score two” was to embody a team, it would be Hyderabad FC. They have been one of the most feared teams in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) this season, scoring 47 goals in 23 games. This mentality carried HFC to their first Hero ISL title in their history.

Creating a sense of togetherness and a 'never say die' mentality, Manuel Marquez lit an undying fire in the hearts of the players such that even after conceding a sloppy goal and with minutes left to play in the biggest game in the club’s history, they did not lose hope. Taking Laxmikant Kattimani as an example, the shot-stopper was at fault for conceding the opening goal of the Hero ISL final, but an hour later, single-handedly won the penalty shootout for HFC by saving three spot-kicks.

Facing Kerala Blasters FC in the final, to whom they have already lost this season, the nerves of the HFC fans going into the game were palpable. But, the fight and grit shown by their team ended with their season with them living through their fairytale, and like the great Shabbir Ali said,The people of Hyderabad are grateful to HFC for reviving our passion for football.”

Record

Pl: 23 W:13 D:5 L:5

After a narrow defeat in their first game to Chennaiyin FC, Manuel Marquez’s side went on an eight-match unbeaten run that saw them score 20 goals and only concede 8 in return. This streak catapulted them to the upper echelons of the league table, where they would remain till the end of the season.

Succumbing to two losses in their final six games, meant that the South Indian outfit could not clinch the League Winner’s Shield and ended the season with 38 points.

Positives

The attacking flair shown by the team is something noteworthy. No side scored more than Hyderabad FC’s 47 goals. This is a massive improvement on last season, where HFC was only able to score 27 goals which was the fifth-best in the division.

This prowess in front of the goal has become the backbone of the Hyderabad FC project under Manuel Marquez. 

Negatives

The biggest negative for HFC would be their lack of clean sheets. In their last eight games of the league stages, Hyderabad FC only kept one clean sheet. This tendency to concede goals continued in the semi-finals as well, where they were unable to keep a single clean sheet in the three matches and also, gave a lifeline to ATK Mohun Bagan in the second leg of their semi-final.

Also Read: A team never beaten: How Hyderabad FC overcame one hurdle after another to be crowned Hero ISL champions

Best Player

Bartholomew Ogbeche

The Nigerian was the reason behind the increase in HFC’s goalscoring prowess. The Hero ISL champions added 20 more goals to their tally this season and Ogbeche was responsible for 18 of those strikes. Scoring an incredible 0.9 goals per game, the 37-year-old struck fear into the hearts of opposition defenders with his runs and positional sense. Equaling the record for the most goals scored in a Hero ISL season, Ogbeche has set expectations that will be tough for even him to meet next season, but if anyone can surpass those expectations, it is certainly him.

Best Young Player

Akash Mishra

The 20-year-old has been one of the most impressive youngsters in the 2021-22 Hero ISL. The fullback has featured in every match for Hyderabad FC and has been involved in 2 goals and 3 assists in those games. He couples this offensive threat with immense defensive nuance that has seen him make 97 tackles and 57 interceptions this season. Mishra has been rewarded for his great performances throughout the season, by being called up to the National Team squad for International friendlies against Belarus and Bahrain.

What do they need next season?

Many people would think that “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but great sides change and develop while they are at the top.

It would be wise for Marquez’s side to start shutting teams out rather than outsourcing them.  That could happen with changing the defensive structure or adding some new faces at the back. Another fact to focus upon is the lack of another major goalscoring threat. Bartholomew Ogbeche scored an outstanding 18 goals this season, but the second-best in the side was Javier Siverio with only seven goals.

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